Karabakhization of eastern Ukraine as Russia embraces China - May, 2014

The Ukrainian people have spoken(!), and it's obvious they don't know what they are talking about. The much anticipated presidential election in Ukraine, in which according to international sources only sixty percent of the eligible population participated in the voting process, saw the election of the "Chocolate King", a billionaire and a former Yanukovych official. Ukraine has thus gone a full circle and is back where it started, with an oligarch at the helm - but without the Crimean peninsula, without peace, without political stability, without financial stability, without economic stability, without large swathes of eastern Ukraine. What we have seen in Ukraine in recent months is typically destructive, Western style democracy at work. Ukrainians have gone out of their way to prove to us all that the worst thing a developing society needs is democracy. And the funniest part? The new president elect, although an outspoken advocate of EU integration, has nevertheless proposed to maintain ties with Moscow (he does after all have significant business interests in Russia) and keep Ukraine out of NATO. No wonder President Putin seemed somewhat conciliatory in recent weeks.
 
But Ukraine today is a broken nation and the so-called Chocolate King will merely prove to be a figurehead, a puppet who's strings will be pulled from afar. For the time being, Western powers will be the ones ultimately calling the shots in Kiev - with Moscow doing the same in the east and south. Ukraine, like Syria, has thus become a proxy in the geostrategic struggle taking place between the world's two most powerful superpowers. Nevertheless, regardless of the political situation in Kiev, the Russian-backed grassroots insurgency in eastern and southern Ukraine has now firmly taken root. This movement will not stop for too much blood has already been spilled. 

Karabakhization

Bloody clashes between pro-Russian Ukrainians and regime supporters in recent weeks have only served to harden the resolve on both sides of the political spectrum. Due to the particularly cruel deaths of dozens of civilians in Odessa several weeks ago and the on going military raids by the junta in Kiev in which civilians are being killed, a permanent wedge is being placed between east and west. Fear, hate and an urge for revenge are some of the psychological factors driving people into action throughout the region. Ethnic and ideological divisions in Ukraine have reached their point-of-no-return. This conflict has the potential to go on for many years - and Russian officials, understandably, seem content.
 
Kremlin officials are satisfied with the overall situation in Ukraine primarily because the need for sending in the Russian military has not materialized. In other words, the pro-Russian segment of Ukrainian society has heroically responded to the call and Moscow has reached its goal of destabilizing eastern and southern Ukraine in response to the Western-backed revolution in Kiev without officially having boots on the ground. As of this writing, clashes between pro-Russian forces and government troops are gradually escalatinglarge numbers of armed volunteers from Russia - with Moscow's full blessings - are pouring into eastern and southern Ukraine and the Ukrainian military is beginning to suffer significant loses. Moscow will henceforth support the pro-Russian grassroots insurgency in Ukraine from the sidelines - but making sure all sides know that it reserves the right to send in the military if things get out of hand.

In my opinion, we are seeing the Karabakhization of the conflict. What do I mean? As noted above, Kremlin officials have assessed the situation at hand and have come to the conclusion that sending in the Russian military is not in Russia's best interest at this stage in the conflict. Moscow will rely on Ukraine's pro-Russian population to carry-out its agenda in south-eastern Ukraine. Let's recall that Russia has absorbed the entire Crimean peninsula without any problems. The reunification of Crimea with Russia was truly a monumental task that Moscow carried-out flawlessly. Moscow does not want to overreach at this crucial juncture by entering headlong into a conflict in which some factors on the ground are not fully in its favor.

And there may be yet another reason behind why Moscow is not rushing in. At this stage, with Crimea already gone and eastern regions rebelling successfully against Kiev, some in the West may actually be seeking to draw Russia fully into the conflict. The intent obviously is to entrap Moscow in a prolonged conflict where Russian troops will cause death and destruction within a territory and amongst a people Russians consider their own. Having already made similar mistakes in recent memory, Moscow is recognizing the potential risks of getting caught in the middle of a civil war in which Russian troops get bogged-down in a long, guerrilla-style warfare.

Even if Western powers prove incapable of luring Russian troops into Ukraine, they have other motives at play. They may be trying to make the best out of a defeat. Although the Kiev uprising did not turn out the way Western powers were initially hoping it would, they have nevertheless managed to sow the seeds of conflict in the country, one that will bare bad fruit for many years. In doing so, they have given NATO a new lease on life as well as new opportunities for the Western elite, Nonetheless, with the Al-Qaeda fairytale losing its effect on the American cattle; with the economic situation in the Western world progressively getting worst; with calls for non-intervention growing in the US; with the military budget shrinking across the Western world; with Europeans being too complacent and pacifistic, the Western establishment desperately needed a new foe to distract their cattle's attention and increase their military revenue. Once again, Russia is that foe. 

Moreover, it must also be pointed out that Moscow does not desire to escalate the financial/economic wrangling with the West - which is something that is in fact in no one's interest. Therefore, not having the proper justification for a full-scale military invasion of additional regions of an internationally recognized sovereign nation - and not wanting to risk its troops getting caught in the middle of a bloody civil war - Moscow is doing its best to turn the disputed regions into a hotbed of armed resistance and therefore manage the situation on the ground from afar - but always making sure to maintain the option of military intervention if need be. By officially remaining on the sidelines of the conflict, Moscow is, at least ostensibly, defusing the heightened tension with the West, containing the conflict that has the potential of spiraling out of control and allowing the West some diplomatic room to reciprocate.

Moscow's actions can therefore be characterized as one that is deescalating international tensions at the same time pushing a Russian agenda forward in eastern Ukraine.

A clear sign of Moscow's long-term strategy in Ukraine are Russian claims that they are merely supporting those in eastern Ukraine who are seeking some degree of autonomy via "federalization" within Ukraine: the implication begin that Russia is not seeking to "annex" eastern Ukraine. And in a clear sign of high level coordination with the pro-Russian movement in eastern Ukraine, even some of the rebel leadership have echoed the same claim. But despite these Russian claims, pro-Russian activists are being provided with all forms of support from Russia (including arms, money, humanitarian aid, volunteers and of course covert special forces) via the very long and largely unmonitored border crossings between Ukraine and Russia. This conflict, as all conflicts tend to do, has begun to take on a life of its own. And as more pro-government troops, pro-Russian activists and civilians die, this process will intensify and the regions impacted by the conflict will drift further and further towards Russia. 

With Russian support, pro-Russian forces will manage to keep the Western-backed junta in Kiev at bay and in doing so eventually achieve defacto autonomy.

Despite the military raids we have been seeing by the Western-backed junta in Kiev in recent weeks, Kiev officials are carefully calibrating their responses against the Russian-backed insurgency. Thus far, their military efforts have been measured and limited in scope. We have not seen any large-scale, sustained military operations in the eastern regions by the junta in Kiev primarily because of fears that doing so runs the risk of drawing in Russian forces waiting just over the border. As I keep saying: If given the order, Russian troops will be soaking their feet in the Dnieper River in two or three days - and there will be no one to stop them. The dilemma for Kiev is that by not responding in full force, they are allowing pro-Russian forces to consolidate their holdings.

Having thus secured the legal framework for military intervention if the situation gets out of hand, Moscow currently seems to be laying the groundwork for a prolonged struggle for liberation. Thus far, things are going by the book and Ukraine has now entered a Karabakhization phase. This is a phase of low intensity conflict and this may last for some time unless an unexpected escalation in the crisis - or a sudden and fundamental change within Moscow's calculus - brings it into a new, more bloody phase. At the very least, however, this phase will ensure that the central authorities in Kiev remain weak and unstable and the pro-Russian regions will remain dependent on Moscow. This phase will also all but ensure that Ukraine is kept out of both the EU and NATO. For the foreseeable future, Ukraine's chances of joining the EU or NATO are therefore non-existent. Ukraine has entered into a period of long-term political, social, economic and financial instability. Pro-Russian regions in eastern and southern Ukraine are heading towards autonomy. The entire Crimean peninsula is back under Russian rule. Moscow has brilliantly maneuvered Kiev into an unenviable position where Ukraine has no choice but to become a buffer zone. Moscow has meticulously created a new reality on the ground. The effort has been both ingenious and monumental.

This very unfortunate situation is something that Ukrainians brought upon themselves by allowing Westerners to sow the seeds of Ukraine's ultimate destruction. Ukraine has therefore forfeited its right to be nation and the Western experiment has backfired terribly. Please revisit the previous four blog commentaries about the crisis in Ukraine - 
The East-West Balance and the Strategic Importance of Crimea: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-military-balance-between-russia-and.html
We are now officially in the midst of Cold War II. At least for the time being, no more bullshit about "partnerships", smiling photo ops or joint operations. This renewed east-west divide may last for many years. The potential for a new iron curtain exists and if a new one is resurrected, it will be compliments of the Anglo-American-Jewish world order. The current political climate will no doubt shape our future. Let's continue praying that all this does not escalate into a major global conflict. Let's also pray that God gives President Putin the wisdom, the perseverance and the strength to pull through these trying times. Make no mistake about it, this is a fight between good and evil. This is a fight between civilization and abomination. This is a fight that Russia simply put cannot lose for this fight is not only Russia's fight, it's humanity's fight. 

A telling sign of just how decrepit American/Western civilization has become in recent years: Filthy street whores from Russia being honored by professional whores in Washignton.

The good news for us all is that the Western establishment is suffering very massive geostrategic setbacks not only in Ukraine but across the world. Bashar Assad has stopped the Western/Turkish/Saudi-backed Islamic insurgency in Syria and is set to win a massive electoral victory in the up-coming presidential elections. Narendra Modi, India's new Hindu nationalist president and the rise of Egypt's secular military leader, General Sisi heralds a new era in which both Egypt, the Arab world's most populace nation and India, the world's largest democracy seem ready and willing to plot their future course independent of the West. 

Historic sociopolitical shifts are occurring in Europe as well. Anti-establishment parties have recently made themselves heard throughout Europe. Anti-Americanism sprinkled with xenophobia, nationalism and Christian conservatism is on the rise throughout the European continent. This is a backlash to the Anglo-American-Jewish establishment's decades long effort to sow Globalization (i.e. ultra-liberalism) into the continent. And some in eastern Europe, as this very significant news article reveals, are once again looking at Moscow with longing.

Russia's unexpected rise as a global player during the past ten years has made much of this possible. And it is about to get even worst for the Western world for Moscow has begun to look East.

President Putin looks east

As the Western world slowly commits suicide via genetically modified foods, junk foodspharmaceuticals, psychiatric drugs, overregulation, dwindling natural resources, undereducation, low birth rates, culture of violence, glorification of war, over-entertainment, consumerism, commercialism, selfishness individualism, mass homicides, child pornography, interracialism, illegal immigration, third world immigration, atheism, feminism, multiculturalism, celebrity worship, Holocaust worship, liberalism and gay pride parades - some others in the world are slowly plotting course for a new Eurasian century.

One of the very predictable repercussions of Western aggression against the Russian Federation is taking shape in front of our very eyes today: Russia and China are deepening their friendship. Who in their right minds could not see this coming? Warming of Sino-Russian relations is nothing new, it has actually been developing quite nicely in recent years -
Medvedev's China visit to carry forward China-Russia strategic ties (May, 2008): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2009/03/perhaps-we-have-not-yet-fully-grasped.html
Today, relations between Moscow and Beijing has never been this good, and there remains a lot of room for further growth. This is exactly what many Eurasian strategists in the Kremlin have been waiting to see for many years. But Moscow was torn because many in Russia also wanted closer relations with Europe. The east-leaning Eurasianists in Moscow were recently presented with an unexpected gift, in the form of Western sanctions and aggression. The Western world's bloody designs for the Middle East and its Russophobic overreaction to the crisis in Ukraine left Moscow no choice in the matter. As west-leaning Russians have become marginalized, east-leaning Russians have grown emboldened. And now Russia is plotting an eastern course. 

Is a strategic alliance between Moscow and Beijing what the political West wanted? Hardly. Such a thing is in fact what the West precisely fears. But due to the Western world's blinding arrogance and greed - not to mention the ominous fact that political power in Western nations rest in the hands of special interest groups - the evolution of a Sino-Russian alliance is exactly what Western powers are confronting today. And they have no one but themselves to blame for it. 

President Vladimir Putin is confidently looking eastward. Moscow is seeking to tap into China's massive energy hungry economy and rapidly growing middle class. China desperately needs Russian commodities as well as expertise in certain sectors. It's a symbiotic relationship that has also grown quite strategic in character in recent years. And there is no turning back now. The proverbial genii is out of the bottle. The massive $400 billion, 30 year - US Dollar free - natural gas deal Moscow struck with Beijing is much more than a symbolic gesture for it's actually the beginning of the end of the US Dollar's global domination and perhaps the end of Western control over global commerce.

For the past several hundred years global commence and finance had been, to a large degree, controlled by a multinational, albeit European powers: Britain, France, USA, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Russia, Sweden, etc. This multinational character in trade and fiance began to change as a result of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and Germany's two defeats in 1918 and 1945. With economic giants at the time such as Russia, Germany - and Japan - no longer in the equation, Anglo-American influence in global commerce and finance - and thus politics - rose to unprecedented heights. The economic and financial principles set by Anglo-Americans at Bretton Woods at the close of the Second World War thus came to dominate the world. Since Second World War all roads have thus led to Rome. For nearly one hundred years the global financial system and global trade has been rigged solely to their benefit. For nearly one hundred years Western powers have looked at the rest of the world as a playground for their financial/corporate elite. For nearly one hundreds years Western companies and the US Dollar dominated the world. For nearly one hundreds years Western societies have thus enjoyed unprecedentedly high standards-of-living. This, however, came at a great cost to the rest of the world.

The following Swiss study may go a long way in explaining why the world is in the shape it currently is and why the Western economic/financial paradigm is in fact a very dangerous animal that needs to be killed before it drags down the entire world. When one begins to realize that over 90% of mega-corporations that control most of the global economy are Western entities - and that the Western war-machine essentially serves these mega-corporations - that is when political matters around the world today will start making better sense -
Does one 'super-corporation' run the global economy? Study claims it could be terrifyingly unstable: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2051008/Does-super-corporation-run-global-economy.html#ixzz1k2BaFZ00
The entire Western world has been living in a bubble created by the US Dollar's global hegemony. The Western financial system has grown so immense in size today that it is essentially a virtual reality and a house of cards. This Anglo-American-Jewish paradigm, however, is living its twilight years. Once this Western financial bubble finally bursts and the house of cards falls apart - it's only a matter of time before it does - it will be lights out. The Soviet Union's collapse will look like a leisurely walk through a pretty flower garden in comparison because the Western world is too developed, too well fed, too complacent, too dumbed-down, too medicated and, too racially/culturally mixed to survive such a downturn.

At this point in history, the only thing the West has going for itself is hype, the mere notion/facade of superiority (e.g. American exceptionalism) and the semblance/facade of stability achieved by the global dominance of the US Dollar. The Western world may look wonderful on the outside but it is slowly rotting on the inside. The Western world is living on past glory and on borrowed time.

In the not too distant past, Western powers went to war to preserve the global hegemony of the US Dollar. It can be argued that the criminal actions against Iraq and Libya in recent years were at least in part an attempt to preserve the US Dollar's supremacy in international trade. But, needless to say, Russia and China are not Iraq or Libya. With that said, the final end may prove long in coming. As long as Western puppet-masters are able to use their levers of social engineering to continue making the self-destructive peasantry in places such as Armenia and Ukraine think they will be "happy" living under the Western world order, the rest of humanity will have to wait before the beast is finally killed.

Ever since official Yerevan announced its decision to join the Russian-led Customs Union last September, the frequency and intensity of Western sponsored freak shows have increased in Armenian society. Armenia's ascension to the Customs Union, perhaps as early as this summer, will come not a moment too soon. The Armenian nation has wasted enough time pandering to criminals in the West. There is nothing of real value Armenia can gain from intimate dealings with Western powers. From China to Bosnia, the West is pushing an Turko-Islamic agenda. From Madrid to Beijing, the West is pushing a neo-Bolshevik-Globalist agenda. In this geopolitical climate, a multipolar world, one in which a traditional Christian power like Russia is a leader, is desperately needed.

Culturally, politically and geographically, Armenia is a Eurasian nation. Armenia's place is within a political/economic pact with Russia, Iran, China and India. This group of nations is where Armenia naturally belongs. It's high time we Armenians acknowledge certain geopolitical realities and adapt to them accordingly. It's high time we collectively begin seeing the opportunities presented by Russia and the potential they have for Armenia. As I have been saying for nearly ten years now, at least from an Eurasian context, the 21st century will belong to Russia and China (and also hopefully India, Iran, and Germany, if the latter can shed its Anglo-American-Jewish yoke).

Having learned its 20th century lessons well and endued with a vast, resource rich land that stretches from Europe to the Pacific Ocean - and a powerful, nuclear armed military to protect it all - the Russian Federation will be in the driver's seat in the 21st century. My humble hope is to see our small, impoverished, landlocked, remote and embattled homeland in the south Caucasus, at the very least, in its passenger seat.

Nature always brings order out of disorder
 

Although the Western political establishment is employing their propagandists to paint recent events in Ukraine in the most brightest of colors, there is no escaping the fact that the Western political order is suffering serious defeats on many fronts and that their power and influence today is in steady decline. The political and financial system put together at the end of the Second World War worked miracles for the Western world - while it lasted. This system, much of it essentially a Ponzy Scheme of global proportions, can not be sustained indefinitely. Sooner-or-later the bubble will burst, the game would be over and the illusion would end.  The Anglo-American world is living its twilight years as its two century old global dominance is gradually decaying.

Unipolarity is destructive for it disrupts natural order in the universe. Nature, by nature, is multipolar and constantly seeks equilibrium. No single entity in an ecology can remain dominant for a very long period of time simply because, as we were thought in school, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Universal order is thus designed to reject unipolarity and it does so by giving rise to countering forces. Therefore, it was only inevitable that the unipolarity within human ecology in recent decades as a result of the unprecedented power the Anglo-American-Zionist establishment yielded has given rise to opposing forces as a means of balancing-out something that nature itself sees as a disorder or simply put - unnatural. Having come to acquire unprecedented power and influence over the world - and having begun to abusing it in recent years - it is therefore inevitable that the Western world world will sooner-than-later suffer a reversal of fortunes. This nature's balancing-out process is what we are witnessing take place in the world today. This is precisely why I keep claiming that Vladimir Putin was sent to bring human ecology back into its natural state of order.

We are therefore living through the birth pangs of a new world order. Nature is correcting what it sees as corruption. We are experiencing the emergence of a new multipolar political landscape where nations until recently held captive would finally be free of Western meddling.
 

As noted above, Ukraine is not the only battlefield where the West has suffered strategic setbacks recently. Armenia's all but certain membership in the Russian-led Customs Union has sealed the fate of the south Caucasus as a Russian zone of influence. Bashar Assad's crushing defeat of the Western-backed Islamic insurgency has all but ensured the survival of the Shiite/Iranian Arc. [The renewed carnage brought upon Iraq is a Western/Saudi war effort against this Iranian arc by other means.] Lebanon's Hezbollah has never been as strong as it is today. The uninterrupted continuation of Iran's nuclear program will ensure the survival of an independent Iranian state as a counterbalance to the Western-backed Sunni/Wahhabist entities of the region. General Sisi promises to be Egypt's new Gamal Abdel Nasser. Modi's rise in India promises better Indo-Russian and Indo-Chinese relations. Even in Europe there are clear signs that the people have had enough of Western "values". Finally, the current world disorder has given rise to a Sino-Russian pact and this newly emerging alliance between two of Eurasia's greatest powers is toying with the idea of delivering a final death blow to the Western world. Challenging the supremacy of the US Dollar - the root cause of Western power and influence - is making headlines once more.

In the big picture, it has been Russia's rise as a world power that has made all this possible. Russia's resurgence was the catalyst that set into motion a chain-of-events (beginning back in the summer of 2008) that has led to the current political landscape. Human society is headed into a new era and Western powers will be unable to stop it. Major geopolitical shifts will continue occurring and borders will be redrawn to accommodate the emerging new world order. But, what does all this mean for Artsakh?

What does all this mean for Artsakh?
 

Western propaganda sources within the Armenian community have recently been having a wonderful time with news reports that Moscow is planning to sell more advanced weaponry to Azerbaijan. As expected, incited by Western propagandists, Armenians are once again calling into question Moscow's reliability as a strategic partner, especially when it comes to the dispute over Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). And once again I find myself faced with addressing this most unpleasant of topics.

If I had to describe what Moscow is doing in one word, it would be: Realpolitik. And if the word Realpolitik is not enough to satisfy the reader, then please consider the following.

Foremost, we must refrain from paying too much attention to Western news agencies (including most English language Armenian ones) if only to maintain sanity and a clear mind. No. Russia is not going to give Artsakh to the Turks. No. Russia is not arming Azerbaijan so that it can invade Armenia. Yes. Russia continues to be Armenia's only strategic ally. Yes. Russia continues to provide Armenia with free and affordable modern weaponry. Yes. Russian-Armenian relations are deepening and Armenia's borders have never been as secure as they are today as a result. 

Russians selling arms to Baku should not always be looked at from the context of the dispute over Artsakh nor as a gauge measuring Russian-Armenian relations. In other words, the two are not necessarily interrelated.

Let's remember that Russia is an independent nation-state who's military industrial complex makes up for a significant portion of the Russian Federation's GDP. Russian officials know that there are a number of nations impatiently waiting for an opportunity to sell arms to Azerbaijan. If Moscow does not, someone else will. What's more, Russia has normal relations with Baku. We must also realize that in its efforts to reclaim the entire south Caucasus, Moscow is doing best to keep Azerbaijan within its orbit. In the big picture, a Baku within the Russian orbit is in Armenia's strategic interests - that is as long as Armenia is allied to the Russian Federation. 

From an Armenian perspective, what would indeed signal trouble is if Russia was not providing Armenia with weaponry to counter the ones Azerbaijan acquired. As we all know, however, Russia is giving Armenia the appropriate arms it needs to protect itself from Azeri and Turkish aggression. In fact, seeing Baku's exorbitant military expenditures, Moscow has been doing its best to keep the balance-of-power in the region intact by providing an impoverished Yerevan with free or discounted modern weaponry. This military support by Moscow is the only reason why Yerevan has been able to hold its own against a big spending Baku. Moscow has made sure that for every kind of tank Azerbaijan possesses in its armed forces, Armenia has ample anti-tank weapons systems that can effectively counter it. Moscow has made sure that for every type of aircraft Azerbaijan possesses in its armed forces, Armenia has ample anti-aircraft weapons systems that can effectively counter it. And by protecting Armenia's western borders against NATO member Turkey, Moscow has made sure Yerevan can concentrate its very limited military resources on protecting Armenia's eastern border against Azerbaijan. In short, Russian arms sales to Baku need to be assessed rationally and in light of facts on the ground.

For further insight on this topic, please visit the following link to Artsakh war veteran and the director of Voskanapat think tank Levon Melik-Shahnazaryan's radio interview -
Լևոն Մելիք-Շահնազարյան: «2 օր առաջ ես գտնվում էի մի տեղ, որտեղ 22 տարի հայի ոտքը չի եղե»: «Թարմ ուղեղով»՝ Լևոն Մելիք-Շահնազարյանի հետ
Nevertheless, recent Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan could also be a pressure tactic to ensure Yerevan does not have a change-of-mind come this summer when Armenia is expected to officially begin the Customs Union entry process. [There continues to be some resistance within political circles in Yerevan.] It could also be a pressure tactic to allow Russians a greater role inside Armenia. As mentioned above, however, it is more likely that Moscow is simply trying to keep Baku in its orbit. Let's recall once more that there are a number of nations that are ready and willing to sell arms to the oil-rich dictatorship. In fact, Turkey, Ukraine, Britain, Israel and the US have until very recently been selling more weapons to Baku than the Russian Federation. Anyone remember news reports two years ago about Israel's $1.6 billion arms sale to Azerbaijan? -
Azerbaijan Makes Massive Israeli Weapons Purchase (February, 2012): http://www.eurasianet.org/node/65053
Let's also never lose sight of the fact that the Western world, by the very nature of geopolitics, is pro-Turkish and it will remain so for as long as the region of the world where Armenia is located has a Russian and Iranian presence -
Looking at US-Turkish relations and Russian-Armenian relations (November, 2012): http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2012/11/us-working-to-strengthen-relations-with.html
Once more, in its efforts to reclaim the south Caucasus as a Russian zone of influence, Moscow is doing its best to keep Baku away from the US, Turkey, Europe and Israel - while keeping Armenia protected at the same time. Simply put, what Moscow is doing is a rational execution of realpolitik and conflict management, two things it excels at.

What we also need to keep in mind is this: Baku has been holding back from trying to militarily solve its dispute with Armenia not merely because of military factors per se but because of the region's political climate. Moscow's strong presence in the region is the primary reason why Baku has been restraining itself. Therefore, regardless of what arms the Azeri military possesses and who provided it to them, the reason why Baku has not attempted a military solution in Artsakh since their Moscow-brokered defeat in 1994 is their primordial fear of the Russian Bear. Once again, had Moscow not sold weapons to Baku, Azeris would have turned once again to Western powers, Turkey or Israel for such weapons. At the same time, had Russia not been in the picture, who would have picked up the tab of arming and training the Armenian military to the tune of many billions of Dollars? 

At the end of the day, these kinds of news developments are being exploited by Armenia's Western mercenaries as a way of disseminating disinformation and spreading Russophobia. Their goal, as the reader should already know, is to drive a wedge between Yerevan and Moscow and severe Armenia from Russia.

Now, with that out of the way, I would like to address the other part of this matter: What will become of Artsakh.

In my opinion, if Yerevan remains within the Russian orbit and Armenians work to deepen Russo-Armenian relations, Artsakh will eventually reunite with the Armenian motherland. I firmly believe this will happen with Moscow's blessing. Recent events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have provided Armenians with a wonderful precedent in this regard. Recent regional developments may mean that the resolution of the dispute over Artsakh may be nearing. Having returned to the south Caucasus after a near twenty years hiatus, Moscow will not want a festering wound to get in the way of its regional agenda. And this is where things might get a little worrying for us Armenians.

There may be one more bout - a quick, decisive and most probably a predetermined battle - between Yerevan and Baku that will settle the matter for once and for all. And the side that is closest to Moscow will derive the most benefits. This is why Yerevan's decision to enter the Russian-led Customs Union was an important strategic step to secure Armenia's vital interests within the Kremlin. With all due respects to the brave men and women serving in the Armenian armed forces today, without direct Russian support Armenians would simply be unable to mount an effective, long-term defense of Artsakh if Armenia's larger and wealthier neighbors decide to resort to sustained violence once again. As my favorite Wall Street saying goes: Past performances do not guarantee future results. Armenians were able to liberate Artsakh during the chaotic years following the Soviet Union's collapse (even then only after Russian support began coming into Armenia starting in early 1992, when the Soviet Union had collapsed and a new Russian state was born in its place).

Armenia today is a demoralized (largely thanks to the country's Western-led doom-and-gloom opposition freaks), impoverished, tiny, remote, landlocked and a blockaded nation surrounded by enemies in one of the most volatile regions of the world - and the traditional Armenian Diaspora (the diaspora comprising of Ottoman-Armenian genocide survivors) is simply too busy obsessing over genocide recognition in Washington, too busy assimilating in their beloved countries, too busy fighting "corruption" in Armenia and too busy complaining about dirty toilets in Yerevan. With the following we vividly see where Diasporan priorities lie today -
While the oil rich dictatorship in Baku is busy spending billions of Dollars acquiring a large arsenal of modern weaponry from around the world, we Armenians are busy infighting, spreading Russophobia, turning our backs to our homeland, attacking Armenia's leadership, pursuing dangerous Western fairytales in Armenia, pathetically crying at the feet of Western officials every April 24 and, of course, bravely championing gay rights!!!
 
Official Yerevan cannot therefore afford to be under any illusions today. There is no Diasporan cavalry waiting to come to the rescue!

Know your enemy. Know yourself. We Armenians cannot make the grave mistake of overestimating our capabilities and underestimating that of our enemies'. Regardless of whether or not Russians sell arms to Baku, Azerbaijan's military is getting stronger due to its oil and gas revenues. If for some reason Moscow stopped providing military support to Armenia and gave Baku a green light to attack, Armenians will, sooner than later, lose Artsakh - if not more. The key to Armenia's demise - and prosperity - is found in the highest offices of the Kremlin. We as a people need to wake-up from our illusions of grandeur and recognize this cold hard reality. Instead of fearmongerign about this, we need to see this as an opportunity.

But Moscow will not abandon Armenia nor give Baku the green light to attack Artsakh. What will Moscow gain from strengthening Turkish, Islamic and Western interests in the strategic south Caucasus by weakening Armenia by bolstering an Azerbaijan, especially after investing so much for so many years in Armenia? Had Turkish/Azeris money or oil been a real factor in Russia's foreign policy formulations in the south Caucasus, which is what many of our Russophobes claim, Moscow would have sold Armenia to Turks many years ago. Russian officials recognize the Turkic/Islamic threat better than us Armenians. 

The reality is that Armenia and Artskah today play a very major role for Moscow. Artsakh's existence as a Russia-friendly Armenian fortress overlooking Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Iran serves the Kremlin's geostrategic interests in the region. Equally important for Russians is the simple fact that the dispute over Artsakh also ensures Yerevan's and Baku's political dependence on Moscow. Moreover, Artsakh is essentially an arms depot with a battle-ready population that will not bow to anyone and the Artsakh-Armenian military leadership enjoy a very close relations with their Russian counterparts. Therefore - strategically, economically, culturally, tactically and practically - Moscow will not do anything that will drastically change the status quo in Artsakh. Armenian sovereignty over Artsakh is therefore set in stone. With that said, now that Yerevan's allegiance has been secured via Armenia's ascension to the Moscow-led Customs Union, I expect Moscow to earnestly begin pursuing bringing Baku under its fold as well. Of course a best case scenario, from an Armenian perspective, would be if Baku continues to remain inflexible in its dealings with Moscow and Yerevan and continues its flirtations with Turkey, Israel and the Anglo-American world.

There are encouraging signs that Western powers may be placing more emphasis on their dealings with Baku now as a result of the September 3 decision by Yerevan. With a Russia-friendly government now in Tbilisi and with Yerevan firmly under Russia's wing, Western policymakers will do everything they can to keep a presence in Baku. The following is a revealing Washington Times article about Azerbaijan that essentially reads like a tacky infomercial -
As you can see, Western powers will do everything they can - even paint a bloody dictator like Aliyev in peachy colors - just to keep Baku engaged. But there is not much else they can do to turn the tide in the south Caucasus. If Baku gives in to Moscow, which is what it will most likely do sooner-or-later, Yerevan will eventually be faced will coming to terms with a final settlement. And this is where things might get somewhat ugly.

As noted above, we might see a short, choreographed war to convince both sides to come to the negotiation table and settle the Artsakh dispute for once and for all. As a final negotiated settlement with Baku, Yerevan may be expected to return some of the "seven regions" taken outside of Artsakh proper as a measure to settle Azeri refugees. I do not have any concerns about the fate of the territories west and south of Artsakh, namely strategic regions between Karvajar in the north-west and the Iranian border in the south-east. In return to Armenian concessions, Baku would be expected to recognize Artsakh's independence or its reunification with Armenia and perhaps return some areas of Artsakh currently under its control. 

It is of paramount importance to mention here that the degree and depth of the concessions that would be expected from Yerevan is ultimately up to the diplomatic acumen of Armenian politicians and the lobbying efforts of our political activists in Moscow. 

Although Russia is the Alpha and the Omega of the region, Armenians can still use their God-given talents to win hearts-and-minds in the Kremlin. It is therefore crucially important to show Russian officials that Armenians are united behind their leadership and that the entire population of Artsakh is fully mobilized for war. Major powers only respect power, not victim-hood and constant whining. Over a century ago one of our most beloved Katolikoi, Mkrtich Khrimyan, popularly known as Khirmyan Hayrik, warned Armenians about the paramount importance of Iron Ladles. Today, this proverbial Iron Ladle is as important for Armenia as it has ever been. In today's Armenia, however, this Iron Ladle should looked at from the context of Armenia's alliance with Russia. 

Nevertheless, the inability of Armenians to unite behind their flag (as well as reveal political foresight) is the fundamental reason why major nations look at Armenia as a pawn as well as the reason why Armenia as a nation-state has been an endangered species within the global community.

I would like to reiterate once more that the primary responsibility of holding on to every square centimeter of liberated Artsakh falls upon the shoulders of Armenian politicians and Armenian lobbyists. Instead of complaining and fear-mongering and threatening closer relations with Western powers, as some of our idiots tend to do when things don't go our way with Moscow, we Armenians need to draw on all our national assets and make a strong case for Artsakh within the walls of the Kremlin. Yerevan must do all it can to convince the Kremlin that keeping Artsakh whole and powerful is in the geostrategic interests of the Russian Federation. If Armenians are unable to do this, Armenia may be forced to pullback from certain territories. Therefore, Artsakh's ultimate fate is to a certain degree in the hands of our politicians and activists and subject to our ability to convince and recruit Kremlin officials into our national cause.

Sadly, however, I do not see much of an effort being put into this vital strategic matter by Armenians in Armenia or by our "democracy" obsessed Armenians in the Diaspora. On one side, we have Western mercenaries doing their best to spread Russophobia and on the other side we have subservient chobans-in-Armani-suits sitting back and expecting Russian officials to decide everything for Armenia. There currently is no farsighted, pragmatic nationalism in Armenia. There is no pan-national effort by Armenian to tap into the opportunities Russia's alliance provides. Everything that Moscow does with regards to Armenia is essentially a by-product of Russian calculations. Thus far we have been lucky but this unsettling reality is one of the reasons why I have been preaching Russian-Armenian relations for the past ten years.

We cannot sit back and expect - or demand - that Russians to do the right thing for Armenia. Armenians need to embark on a collective, cohesive, pan-national effort to make a case for Artsakh's territorial integrity. Armenians need to figure out a way to make Artsakh a strategic asset for policymakers in Moscow. Armenians need to work on making sure they will have a major input in whatever the final settlement will look like. This won't be an uphill battle for Russo-Armenian interests within the south Caucasus converge for the most part. In fact, we are seeing this historic convergence of political interests between Russia and Armenia extending to Artsakh as well. Breaking all diplomatic norms, Moscow has even gone out of its way - risking serious political damage - to express its steadfast support for the Armenian state. In a press interview that shook many capitols around the world several months ago, the commander of the recently modernized 102nd Russian military base stationed in Gyumri, Armenia stated that if Baku attempts to take Artsakh by military force, his troops may join Armenian forces in retaliating against Azeri forces -
Russian Troops in Gyumri will Retaliate If Azerbaijan Attacks Artsakh: http://asbarez.com/115675/russian-troops-in-gyumri-will-retaliate-if-azerbaijan-attacks/
Moreover, Russian officials have gone out of their way to hint that Armenia's membership in the Customs Union will be extend to Artsakh as well - 
Karabakh’s Status in Customs Union?:http://news.am/eng/news/183477.html
And, as expected, Western propagandists are have been sounding the alarm -
Russia Shows its Hand on Karabakh: http://euobserver.com/opinion/122032
Nevertheless, what's interesting here is how serious geostrategic calculations always trumps money and lobbying. Turks and Azeris have been much smarter than us Armenians in that they, unlike us Armenians, recognize the paramount importance of the Russian factor in the south Caucasus and have accordingly placed a lot of emphasis on lobbying Russian officials and spending large sums of money in Russia. In the following video link, we see billionaire Ara Abrahamyan, one of Russia's most prominent Armenians and one who enjoys a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, sounding the alarm about the increase of Turkish lobbying efforts inside Moscow and the virtual absence of an Armenian response -
I reiterate: Because there exists no serious lobbying efforts by Armenians inside Moscow, everything that the Kremlin does with regards to Armenia is essentially a by-product of Russian calculations. On one side, Armenia has Western mercenaries attempting to spread Russophobia and on the other side it has subservient chobans-in-Armani-suits sitting back and expecting Russians to decide everything for Armenia. There is no farsighted, pragmatic nationalism in Armenia today. There is no pan-national effort by Armenians to tap into the opportunities Russia's alliance provides. 

Armenians would do well to put aside their misplaced pride and arrogance and realize that the Russian factor in the region's political landscape has been the only reason why there has been, there is and there will continue to be an Armenian presence in the region. Let's learn to curb our overpowering emotions and recognize this, accept this, and try to exploit this for Armenia's sake. But knowing how politically illiterate Armenians can be and how well Western interests are entrenched inside Armenia, I understand this will not be an easy task.

While Russia was busy trying to get up on its feet in the chaotic years following the Soviet Union's collapse, the West cleverly took advantage of the situation by saturating Armenia with financial aid (i.e. palatable term for government bribes), large numbers of activists, mercenaries, subversive organizations popularly known as Non-Government-Organizations (NGOs) and Globalese - the English language, the catalyst upon which all the aforementioned travel upon. While Moscow did its best to retain control over the 'head' in Armenia, the West gradually came to control the Armenian 'body'. This is part of the reason why the Armenian head and the Armenian body has been going in separate ways in recent years. Nevertheless, what we have today in Armenia is a nation where Moscow has control over the top layer of Armenian society whereas Western interests control lower layers.

In other words, what we have in Armenia today is a nation that is dependent on and strategically allied to Russia but also a nation that is utterly saturated by Western programs and activists. What we have today in Armenia is not a very healthy situation.

Official Yerevan's so-called "complimentary politics", where Armenian officials sought to play both sides of the geopolitical fence, got Armenia to this point. I recognize that this approach to East-West relations worked well for Yerevan while the Russian Federation was weak and incapable of imposing its political will within its near abroad. However, what we all now need to recognize is that the geopolitical climate of the world has changed drastically since the time Yeltsin the Drunk was in power in Moscow. Today, Russian power and influence has been reinstated throughout much of former Soviet territory. Today, the continuation of complimentary politics will keep Armenia stagnant at best and vulnerable for collapse at worst.

Russians are once again warning Armenia

Several years ago, Director of Russia’s Institute for Strategic Studies Leonid Reshetnikov warned Armenians about the threat of the growing presence of the US inside Armenia. Last year, the outspoken former Russian envoy to Armenia Vyacheslav Kovalenko warned Armenians about the dangers Armenia faces as a result of Yerevan's desire to seek partnership with the EU. A few weeks ago, Russia's current acting ambassador to Armenia Ivan Volynkin once more reiterated the warning about the propagation of Russophobia by Western funded NGOs operating inside Armenia, claiming they are attempting to drive a wedge between Yerevan and Moscow and that they need to be neutralized. And just recently, Dmitry Kiselyov, an outspoken talk show host in Russia warned Armenians about the dangers of neglecting the Russian language in Armenia. Needless to say, Western assets throughout Armenian society - as well as Turks - have been thoroughly exploiting these news items as yet another means of souring Russo-Armenian relations.

Although concerns by Russian officials (including President Putin) have been expressed in private during meetings with Armenian officials for many years, it's been only in recent years that Russians have been making public statements about the matter. In the big picture, what all this means is that times have changed and Armenians better take notice. Russia is once again the alpha and the omega of the Caucasus and Washington's machinations inside Armenia may finally be challenged by Moscow. In other words, we may be witnessing the end of complimentary politics in Yerevan - and it's not because of Armenian political foresight.

My thoughts regarding this matter should be well known by my readers. But I would like to make some reiterations nonetheless.

Foremost, Western-funded organizations, regardless of their stated intentions, are cancerous elements within the Armenian body. There are hundreds of registered NGOs in Armenia championing everything from trees to gays and they employ many thousands of people. I understand that for an economically struggling nation that is a good thing. However, at what cost to the nation? Look at any troubled hotspot in the world today and you will find Western organizations and individuals diligently working behind-the-scenes.

We must also be mindful that in a small, landlocked and cash-strapped nation like Armenia, these NGOs can potentially have a very large impact. A majority of these NGOs are Western funded operations, and I would dare say that a majority of them are tasked with pushing, in one way or another, a Western political agenda inside Armenia. In fact, most of the civic action programs we have been seeing in Armenia in recent years - specifically those attempting to propagate Russophobia, homosexuality, multiculturalism, feminism and Turkish-Armenian reconciliation - are the handiwork of these organizations and their activists. Many of the Social Engineering projects of the Western world are being carried-out inside Armenia by these groups. The Western task of driving a wedge between Armenia and Russia are also being carried-out by these groups. Under the guise of "freedom and democracy" these groups are actively pushing a Western imperial agenda inside Armenia. And God forbid when "forces of freedom and democracy" or their Turco-Islamic brigades ever start bombing Armenia (which may very well happen the very day Russian troops leave Armenia), it will be these employees of the American empire that will appear on CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera and make excuses for the aggression against Armenia.

Knowing firsthand the destructive nature of Westernization; knowing firsthand the hostility the Western political establishment holds towards Armenia; knowing firsthand the political ignorance and self-destructive streak prevailing inside a good cross-section of Armenians today - and being under no illusions about Armenia's capabilities as a nation-state to defend itself in the volatile south Caucasus - I fully endorse the aforementioned assessments by Russians of the dangers Westernization and Western funded organizations present inside Armenia and I am glad they are finally speaking up about this very urgent matter. As an Armenian, I would go even farther than what Russians have been saying and call for all Western-funded NGOs and media organizations such as Civilitas, Pre-Parliament, Radio LibertyLragir, Hetq, and ArmeniaNow to be shutdown and their key staff members placed either under surveillance or simply expelled from the country as foreign agents.

In light of recent regional developments, it is a matter of strategic importance that Armenia expel all Western funded organizations and place emphasis on the promotion of the Russian language inside Armenia. I reiterate: The promotion of the Russian language inside Armenia is of paramount strategic importance.

Armenia's youth, those who did not live during Soviet times, have been most susceptible to the most corrosive aspects of Western Globalism. It is therefore not surprising that the English has been making serious headway amongst Armenia's youth as less-and-less of them are learning Russian - the language of Armenia's largest trading partner, largest investor, largest arms supplier and largest energy provider. 

Besides being the official language of  CIS, CSTO and the fledgling Eurasian Union, all of which Armenia is a part of; besides being the language of Armenia's largest trading partner, largest investor, largest arms supplier, largest energy provider and only ally, the Russian language is an important depository of classical European civilization and an antidote to Globalese. Similar to how Israelis embrace the English language and American culture and relentlessly work to recruit Anglo-Americans into Israel's struggle in the Middle East, Armenians likewise need to embrace the Russian language and Russian culture and relentlessly work to recruit Russians into Armenia's struggle in the south Caucasus.

By enthusiastically embracing the English language and celebrating Anglo-American cultural elements - low quality modern pop culture in particular- the youth in Armenia are unwittingly adopting Anglo-American values and identity. Let's recognize that with values and identity comes politics and mentality. Knowing the English language makes their job of delivering sociopolitical messages to the masses that much easier. Knowing the English language makes their job of social engineering the masses via cinema, publications, news reports, television and music that much more effective. It should therefore not come as a surprise that untold sums have been spent on the proliferation of the empire's language around the world in recent decades and the effort continues. 

The English language has thus become a catalyst of corrosive change and a tool of manipulation and mental conditioning. When it comes to English, unbeknownst to the sheeple, alongside Shakespeare also comes the very toxic tenets of Western Globalism.

Wall Street bankers, multiculturalism, interracialism, anti-nationalism, anti-Christianity, corporatization, consumerism, GMOs, junk foods, pharmaceuticals, drug abuse, Anglo-American-Afro-Jewish pop culture, Holocaust worship, individualism and the promotion of sexual perversions, feminism and homosexuality travels very close behind the spread of the English language around the world.

The first and second official languages in Armenia need to be Armenian and Russian respectively. Those who worry about the status of the Armenian language in Armenia are allowing Cold War ghosts to muddle their thinking process. If Bolsheviks could not kill the Armenian language, and God knows they tried, Russian-led economic pacts such as the Eurasian Union never will. With that said, other languages that also need to be taught in Armenia are German, French, Persian, Arabic and Chinese. The English language should primarily be reserved for Armenia's diplomatic corps until a new Lingua Franca appears.

As the reader can see, I firmly stand behind Dmitry Kiselyov's comments regarding the troubling language situation in Armenia today. I also appreciate his honest if harsh candor. I much rather hear harsh truths from Russians than the usual sweet lies from Westerners. Mind you that I am saying all this as a Diasporan Armenian of Cilician heritage and one that does not speak any Russian.

It is nevertheless a very encouraging sign that Russians are becoming more involved inside Armenia. If any of what's being claimed in this CIA report can be trusted, we may be finally entering a new phase in Russian-Armenian relations, one where Moscow will become more proactive in Armenia's domestic affairs. Thank God. I can only hope that the next stage will see the implementation of some serious countermeasures to curb or neutralize or terminate Western-led entities operating inside Armenia. We Armenians must learn from the mistakes of others because Armenia is too small and too vulnerable to make the kind of mistakes made by Serbians, Libyans, Venezuelans, Syrians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Iraqis and Egyptians.

I would like to see Russian officials take the initiative in this regard because I do not have much confidence in Armenians to get the job done. Armenia is a nation today that is suffering terribly from a deficit of farsighted officials, professionals, intellectuals and pragmatic nationalists. The reigns of power in the nation today are in the hands of illiterate peasants, greedy monopolists and Western mercenaries. There is a virtual absence of sober-minded and farsighted nationalism in Armenian society today. The modern Armenian is too spineless, too selfish, too ostentatious, too moneygrubbing, too clannish, too politically ignorant and too enthralled by Western fairytales to do things that are actually in the long-term interests of the Armenian homeland. In fact, for a few dollars - or a Green Card - the typical Armenian in Armenia today is fully capable, wittingly or unwittingly, of laying waste to his or her homeland. Sadly, the overall situation is even sadder in the once proud Armenian Diaspora. The typical Diasporan today, the vast majority perhaps, is too busy assimilating in their beloved lands where - "when two of them meet...see if they will not create a New Armenia". And for most of those small numbers of Diasporans who have anything to do with the Armenian homeland, Armenia has unfortunately become something like an exotic zoo or a laboratory where to concoct their volatile sociopolitical experiments.

The following for example is yet another well-fed Western mercenary preaching suicidal policies to a disgusting ARF affiliated filth who only two years ago was trying to spread anti-Bashar Assad propaganda inside the Armenian community -
Past the Tipping Point: An Interview with Ara Papian: http://www.armenianweekly.com/2014/05/18/interview-ara-papian/
As I said, seeing where Armenian society is today, I am very glad Russians are becoming proactive and preemptive inside Armenia. Perhaps seeing the carnage and upheaval in places where Western organizations and operatives have been given too much freedoms, Russia seems to be preparing to play a greater role in the internal affairs of its only strategic ally in the south Caucasus. This comes not a moment too soon, for if left to its devices Armenians will sooner burn-down their homeland than do something that is actually in its long term interest. Therefore, for its own long-term good, Armenia will be brought fully into the Russian orbit either willingly or by force. Needless to say, it's better we Armenians put aside our illusions of grandeur, sober-up and do this inevitable willingly and effectively, lest we risk getting raped by our wonderful neighbors once more. It's better we collectively begin seeing the growth of Russian power in the region as a historic opportunity to secure Armenia's borders and closely tie its economy to a large market where Armenian goods and products are readily recognized and well respected.

A friendly reminder: Armenia's neighbors are Turks, Azeris, Kurds, Iranians, Pan-Turkists, Islamists and of course backstabbing Georgians. Armenia's independence from Russia will ultimately mean Armenian dependence on Turkey. No Russia in the south Caucasus means no Armenia in the south Caucasus. And the ONLY reason why Western interests are in the Caucasus is to exploit the region's energy reserves free of Russian meddling and contain the growth of Russian power. Armenia therefore is not located on very fertile ground and ONE wrong move may destroy the nation.

Unfortunately, our typical "nationalist" nutjobs today (i.e. our culturally Asiatic, obnoxiously boastful, deeply ignorant and overly emotional chobans who think they are great patriots) will become a problem. Yes, Armenia's so-called patriots will become a problem. Trust me, Western interests working within Armenian society will make sure of it. As in the past, Western powers will utilize all levers at their disposal to manipulate these elements against the Armenian state and its deepening alliance with Russia. The usual suspects will be elements within the ARF (specifically those located in the Diaspora), elements throughout the American-Armenian community, those in Armenia living off Western grants, Western-funded NGOs, Western funded news organizations, Western-funded political parties like Raffi Hovanissian's Heritage party and of course Paruyr Hayrikian's
zombies. 


Throughout this whole process one of the largest CIA branches in the world will be doing its best to distract Armenians with utter nonsense - which is an American specialty. Therefore, as the American empire's most "pro-Armenian" official happily drinks toasts to genocidal criminals from Azerbaijan, some Armenians will continue dancing like happy little monkeys for the very honorable CIA representative in Armenia.

Arevordi
May, 2014

***
China-Russia is a match made in heaven, and that’s scary


As Russian President Vladimir Putin signed Russia’s historic $400 billion gas-supply agreement with China, he must have felt the satisfaction of a chess grandmaster revealing the inexorable outcome of a complicated endgame. In theory, the next phase of the chess match between Russia and the West in Ukraine will only begin with the Ukrainian presidential election on Sunday. But Putin’s positioning of the pieces means the outcome is pre-ordained, no matter who emerges as the next president in Kiev.

No wonder the Russian stock market and ruble have both rebounded — with the MSCI Russia index gaining 20 percent in dollar terms since its low point on March 14. Having secured the territorial windfall of Crimea in March, Putin went on to achieve his main tactical objective in April. This was to destabilize Ukraine to the point where nobody could seriously contemplate the country joining the European Union, much less the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Just as important, from Putin’s standpoint, the combination of internal chaos and improvised plebiscites and Russian military exercises being conducted on the Ukrainian border, distracted Western attention from the Crimean issue. He deflected the threat of additional sanctions from the legality of Russia’s annexation to the feasibility of Ukraine’s presidential election.

Now that analysts are predicting no major violence at Sunday’s election, it is hard to see what arguments the West could offer for tightening sanctions — or how they would find the unity to do it if they tried. The incorporation of Crimea into Russian national territory has, in effect, been accepted by the world as irreversible.

Given Sevastopol’s priceless strategic significance as a naval base, not to mention the Russian people’s affection for Crimea as a vacation, retirement and cultural destination, the restoration of Crimea would, on its own, likely guarantee Putin’s political popularity for many years to come. But this week the news for Putin got even better.

Russia’s strategic gains in Crimea and Ukraine were already apparent by early May, when the Moscow stock market and the ruble started rapidly rising. But now the United States and Europe have delivered Putin another — even bigger — economic and geopolitical windfall: the prospect of a Sino-Russian partnership to balance NATO and the U.S. alliances in Asia.

A few months ago, neither Moscow nor Beijing would have imagined a Eurasian partnership possible — or even desirable. Against a different diplomatic background, Wednesday’s Sino-Russian gas agreement might have been just another trade deal. It would seemingly have had no great geopolitical significance apart from its impact on energy prices in different parts of the world. But things look very different in the light of recent global confrontations, not only between the West and Russia over Ukraine, but also between the United States and China — over Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and, most recently, cyber-espionage.

When we consider the Western diplomatic ineptitude responsible for these events, culminating in Washington’s decision to issue arrest warrants for leading Chinese military figures the very day that Putin arrived in Shanghai, the 30-year energy deal between Russia and China becomes key. Perhaps Putin’s trip to Shanghai could even mark the start of a strategic realignment between nuclear superpowers comparable to the tectonic shifts that began with President Richard M. Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. This suggestion may seem far-fetched and grandiose, but there are five reasons why Western leaders are over-optimistic and short-sighted simply to dismiss this idea — as they have done in the past.

1.  RISE AND DECLINE

China is obviously a rising superpower while Russia is a declining one. This means that both will inevitably experience frictions with the United States and Europe, the hegemonic powers that now dominate global politics and economics. Since Russia is declining, its frictions will mainly involve encroachments on what Russia sees as its economic or territorial prerogatives by U.S. allies in Europe. That is how Russians see the current confrontation over Ukraine. Since China is rising, it will create frictions by encroaching on U.S. allies in the Pacific. In both cases, Moscow and Beijing will be opposed by the United States.

2. PROJECTION OF FORCE

U.S. dominance is on the decline — not because the United States is becoming economically or technologically weaker but because the American public is disillusioned with foreign adventures. They are no longer willing to act as global policemen. This means that U.S. allies can no longer realistically rely on Washington to deter Russia and China, especially in minor territorial disputes. Even if U.S. protection is theoretically “guaranteed” by treaties on mutual defense.

3. A PERFECT MATCH

A Sino-Russian axis is a natural fit. The two countries’ economies, military capabilities and even demographics complement each other. Russia has excess resources but a shortage of manpower. China faces the opposite problems. Russia is strong in advanced military technologies, aeronautics and software — but weak in mass production of consumer goods and electronic hardware. China has the converse strengths and weaknesses.

4. A BIGGER POTENTIAL COALITION

A strategic partnership between the world’s second largest and sixth largest economies (by purchasing power parity exchange rates) could attract other countries, especially in Asia, that were unable or unwilling to commit themselves to Western standards of political democracy, corporate governance, trade and financial openness or quality and safety of consumer products.

5. A COMMON ENEMY

Perhaps most important, a new element has suddenly been injected into super-power relationships by the events in Ukraine, combined with U.S. President Barack Obama’s unexpected belligerence to China during his trip to Asia last month. While Chinese and Russian leaders have historically distrusted, and even disliked, one another, they are starting to dislike the United States even more.

Russia’s reasons are obvious. In the case of China, there was less distrust until Washington suddenly turned up the heat on cyber-espionage and territorial disputes in the China Seas. Perhaps this confrontational behavior is just a brief aberration. But if Obama continues to needle and provoke China, he will not just be making an historic blunder — he will be playing straight into Putin’s strategy.
The Birth of a Eurasian Century

http://cdn.rt.com/files/opinionpost/27/1a/00/00/36.si.jpg

A specter is haunting Washington, an unnerving vision of a Sino-Russian alliance wedded to an expansive symbiosis of trade and commerce across much of the Eurasian land mass - at the expense of the United States.

And no wonder Washington is anxious. That alliance is already a done deal in a variety of ways: through the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asian counterweight to NATO; inside the G20; and via the 120-member-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Trade and commerce are just part of the future bargain. Synergies in the development of new military technologies beckon as well. After Russia’s Star Wars-style, ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense anti-missile system comes online in 2018, Beijing is sure to want a version of it. Meanwhile, Russia is about to sell dozens of state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters to the Chinese as Beijing and Moscow move to seal an aviation-industrial partnership.

This week should provide the first real fireworks in the celebration of a new Eurasian century-in-the-making with Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting Xi in Shanghai this Tuesday and Wednesday. You remember Pipelineistan,” all those crucial oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing Eurasia that make up the true circulatory system for the life of the region. Now, it looks like the ultimate Pipelineistan deal, worth $1 trillion and 10 years in the making, will be inked as well. In it, the giant, state-controlled Russian energy giant Gazprom will agree to supply the giant state-controlled China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) with 3.75 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas a day for no less than 30 years, starting in 2018. That’s the equivalent of a quarter of Russia’s massive gas exports to all of Europe. China’s current daily gas demand is around 16 billion cubic feet a day, and imports account for 31.6% of total consumption.

Gazprom may still collect the bulk of its profits from Europe, but Asia could turn out to be its Everest. The company will use this mega-deal to boost investment in Eastern Siberia and the whole region will be reconfigured as a privileged gas hub for Japan and South Korea as well. If you want to know why no key country in Asia has been willing to isolate Russia in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis - and in defiance of the Obama administration - look no further than Pipelineistan.

Exit the Petrodollar, Enter the Gas-o-Yuan

And then, talking about anxiety in Washington, there’s the fate of the petrodollar to consider, or rather the “thermonuclear” possibility that Moscow and Beijing will agree on payment for the Gazprom-CNPC deal not in petrodollars but in Chinese yuan. One can hardly imagine a more tectonic shift, with Pipelineistan intersecting with a growing Sino-Russian political-economic-energy partnership. Along with it goes the future possibility of a push, led again by China and Russia, toward a new international reserve currency -- actually a basket of currencies -- that would supersede the dollar (at least in the optimistic dreams of BRICS members).

Right after the potentially game-changing Sino-Russian summit comes a BRICS summit in Brazil in July. That’s when a $100 billion BRICS development bank, announced in 2012, will officially be born as a potential alternative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank as a source of project financing for the developing world.

More BRICS cooperation meant to bypass the dollar is reflected in the Gas-o-yuan,” as in natural gas bought and paid for in Chinese currency. Gazprom is even considering marketing bonds in yuan as part of the financial planning for its expansion. Yuan-backed bonds are already trading in Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and most recently Frankfurt.

Nothing could be more sensible for the new Pipelineistan deal than to have it settled in yuan. Beijing would pay Gazprom in that currency (convertible into rubles); Gazprom would accumulate the yuan; and Russia would then buy myriad made-in-China goods and services in yuan convertible into rubles.

It’s common knowledge that banks in Hong Kong, from Standard Chartered to HSBC - as well as others closely linked to China via trade deals - have been diversifying into the yuan, which implies that it could become one of the de facto global reserve currencies even before it’s fully convertible. (Beijing is unofficially working for a fully convertible yuan by 2018.)

The Russia-China gas deal is inextricably tied up with the energy relationship between the European Union (EU) and Russia. After all, the bulk of Russia’s gross domestic product comes from oil and gas sales, as does much of its leverage in the Ukraine crisis. In turn, Germany depends on Russia for a hefty 30% of its natural gas supplies. Yet Washington’s geopolitical imperatives - spiced up with Polish hysteria - have meant pushing Brussels to find ways to “punish” Moscow in the future energy sphere (while not imperiling present day energy relationships).

There’s a consistent rumble in Brussels these days about the possible cancellation of the projected 16 billion euro South Stream pipeline, whose construction is to start in June. On completion, it would pump yet more Russian natural gas to Europe - in this case, underneath the Black Sea (bypassing Ukraine) to Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Austria.

Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have already made it clear that they are firmly opposed to any cancellation. And cancellation is probably not in the cards. After all, the only obvious alternative is Caspian Sea gas from Azerbaijan, and that isn’t likely to happen unless the EU can suddenly muster the will and funds for a crash schedule to construct the fabled Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, conceived during the Clinton years expressly to bypass Russia and Iran.

In any case, Azerbaijan doesn’t have enough capacity to supply the levels of natural gas needed, and other actors like Kazakhstan, plagued with infrastructure problems, or unreliable Turkmenistan, which prefers to sell its gas to China, are already largely out of the picture. And don’t forget that South Stream, coupled with subsidiary energy projects, will create a lot of jobs and investment in many of the most economically devastated EU nations.

Nonetheless, such EU threats, however unrealistic, only serve to accelerate Russia’s increasing symbiosis with Asian markets. For Beijing especially, it’s a win-win situation. After all, between energy supplied across seas policed and controlled by the US Navy and steady, stable land routes out of Siberia, it’s no contest.

Pick Your Own Silk Road

Of course, the US dollar remains the top global reserve currency, involving 33% of global foreign exchange holdings at the end of 2013, according to the IMF. It was, however, at 55% in 2000. Nobody knows the percentage in yuan (and Beijing isn’t talking), but the IMF notes that reserves in “other currencies” in emerging markets have been up 400% since 2003.

The Fed is arguably monetizing 70% of the US government debt in an attempt to keep interest rates from heading skywards. Pentagon adviser Jim Rickards, as well as every Hong Kong-based banker, tends to believe that the Fed is bust (though they won’t say it on the record). No one can even imagine the extent of the possible future deluge the US dollar might experience amid a $1.4 quadrillion Mount Ararat of financial derivatives. Don’t think that this is the death knell of Western capitalism, however, just the faltering of that reigning economic faith, neoliberalism, still the official ideology of the United States, the overwhelming majority of the European Union, and parts of Asia and South America.

As far as what might be called the “authoritarian neoliberalism” of the Middle Kingdom, what’s not to like at the moment? China has proven that there is a result-oriented alternative to the Western “democratic” capitalist model for nations aiming to be successful. It’s building not one, but myriad new Silk Roads, massive webs of high-speed railways, highways, pipelines, ports, and fiber optic networks across huge parts of Eurasia. These include a Southeast Asian road, a Central Asian road, an Indian Ocean “maritime highway” and even a high-speed rail line through Iran and Turkey reaching all the way to Germany.

In April, when President Xi Jinping visited the city of Duisburg on the Rhine River, with the largest inland harbor in the world and right in the heartland of Germany’s Ruhr steel industry, he made an audacious proposal: a new “economic Silk Road” should be built between China and Europe, on the basis of the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe railway, which already runs from China to Kazakhstan, then through Russia, Belarus, Poland, and finally Germany. That’s 15 days by train, 20 less than for cargo ships sailing from China’s eastern seaboard. Now that would represent the ultimate geopolitical earthquake in terms of integrating economic growth across Eurasia.

Keep in mind that, if no bubbles burst, China is about to become - and remain - the number one global economic power, a position it enjoyed for 18 of the past 20 centuries. But don’t tell London hagiographers; they still believe that US hegemony will last, well, forever.


Take Me to Cold War 2.0

Despite recent serious financial struggles, the BRICS countries have been consciously working to become a counterforce to the original and - having tossed Russia out in March - once again Group of 7, or G7. They are eager to create a new global architecture to replace the one first imposed in the wake of World War II, and they see themselves as a potential challenge to the exceptionalist and unipolar world that Washington imagines for our future (with itself as the global robocop and NATO as its robo-police force). Historian and imperialist cheerleader Ian Morris, in his book War! What is it Good For?, defines the US as the ultimate “globocop” and “the last best hope of Earth.” If that globocop “wearies of its role,” he writes, “there is no plan B.”

Well, there is a plan BRICS - or so the BRICS nations would like to think, at least. And when the BRICS do act in this spirit on the global stage, they quickly conjure up a curious mix of fear, hysteria, and pugnaciousness in the Washington establishment. Take Christopher Hill as an example. The former assistant secretary of state for East Asia and US ambassador to Iraq is now an advisor with the Albright Stonebridge Group, a consulting firm deeply connected to the White House and the State Department. When Russia was down and out, Hill used to dream of a hegemonic American “new world order.” Now that the ungrateful Russians have spurned what “the West has been offering” - that is, “special status with NATO, a privileged relationship with the European Union, and partnership in international diplomatic endeavors” - they are, in his view, busy trying to revive the Soviet empire. Translation: if you’re not our vassals, you’re against us. Welcome to Cold War 2.0.

The Pentagon has its own version of this directed not so much at Russia as at China, which, its think tank on future warfare claims, is already at war with Washington in a number of ways. So if it’s not apocalypse now, it’s Armageddon tomorrow. And it goes without saying that whatever’s going wrong, as the Obama administration very publicly “pivots” to Asia and the American media fills with talk about a revival of Cold War-era “containment policy” in the Pacific, it’s all China’s fault.

Embedded in the mad dash toward Cold War 2.0 are some ludicrous facts-on-the-ground: the US government, with $17.5 trillion in national debt and counting, is contemplating a financial showdown with Russia, the largest global energy producer and a major nuclear power, just as it’s also promoting an economically unsustainable military encirclement of its largest creditor, China.

Russia runs a sizeable trade surplus. Humongous Chinese banks will have no trouble helping Russian banks out if Western funds dry up. In terms of inter-BRICS cooperation, few projects beat a $30 billion oil pipeline in the planning stages that will stretch from Russia to India via Northwest China. Chinese companies are already eagerly discussing the possibility of taking part in the creation of a transport corridor from Russia into Crimea, as well as an airport, shipyard, and liquid natural gas terminal there. And there’s another “thermonuclear” gambit in the making: the birth of a natural gas equivalent to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that would include Russia, Iran, and reportedly disgruntled US ally Qatar.

The (unstated) BRICS long-term plan involves the creation of an alternative economic system featuring a basket of gold-backed currencies that would bypass the present America-centric global financial system. (No wonder Russia and China are amassing as much gold as they can.) The euro - a sound currency backed by large liquid bond markets and huge gold reserves - would be welcomed in as well.

It’s no secret in Hong Kong that the Bank of China has been using a parallel SWIFT network to conduct every kind of trade with Tehran, which is under a heavy US sanctions regime. With Washington wielding Visa and Mastercard as weapons in a growing Cold War-style economic campaign against Russia, Moscow is about to implement an alternative payment and credit card system not controlled by Western finance. An even easier route would be to adopt the Chinese Union Pay system, whose operations have already overtaken American Express in global volume.

I’m Just Pivoting With Myself

No amount of Obama administration “pivoting” to Asia to contain China (and threaten it with US Navy control of the energy sea lanes to that country) is likely to push Beijing far from its Deng Xiaoping-inspired, self-described peaceful development strategy meant to turn it into a global powerhouse of trade. Nor are the forward deployment of US or NATO troops in Eastern Europe or other such Cold-War-ish acts likely to deter Moscow from a careful balancing act: ensuring that Russia’s sphere of influence in Ukraine remains strong without compromising trade and commercial, as well as political, ties with the European Union - above all, with strategic partner Germany. This is Moscow’s Holy Grail; a free-trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which (not by accident) is mirrored in China’s dream of a new Silk Road to Germany.

Increasingly wary of Washington, Berlin for its part abhors the notion of Europe being caught in the grips of a Cold War 2.0. German leaders have more important fish to fry, including trying to stabilize a wobbly EU while warding off an economic collapse in southern and central Europe and the advance of ever more extreme right-wing parties.

On the other side of the Atlantic, President Obama and his top officials show every sign of becoming entangled in their own pivoting - to Iran, to China, to Russia’s eastern borderlands, and (under the radar) to Africa. The irony of all these military-first maneuvers is that they are actually helping Moscow, Tehran, and Beijing build up their own strategic depth in Eurasia and elsewhere, as reflected in Syria, or crucially in ever more energy deals. They are also helping cement the growing strategic partnership between China and Iran. The unrelenting Ministry of Truth narrative out of Washington about all these developments now carefully ignores the fact that, without Moscow, the “West” would never have sat down to discuss a final nuclear deal with Iran or gotten a chemical disarmament agreement out of Damascus.

When the disputes between China and its neighbors in the South China Sea and between that country and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyou islands meet the Ukraine crisis, the inevitable conclusion will be that both Russia and China consider their borderlands and sea lanes private property and aren’t going to take challenges quietly - be it via NATO expansion, US military encirclement, or missile shields. Neither Beijing nor Moscow is bent on the usual form of imperialist expansion, despite the version of events now being fed to Western publics. Their “red lines” remain essentially defensive in nature, no matter the bluster sometimes involved in securing them.

Whatever Washington may want or fear or try to prevent, the facts on the ground suggest that, in the years ahead, Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran will only grow closer, slowly but surely creating a new geopolitical axis in Eurasia. Meanwhile, a discombobulated America seems to be aiding and abetting the deconstruction of its own unipolar world order, while offering the BRICS a genuine window of opportunity to try to change the rules of the game.

Russia and China in Pivot Mode

In Washington’s think-tank land, the conviction that the Obama administration should be focused on replaying the Cold War via a new version of containment policy to “limit the development of Russia as a hegemonic power” has taken hold. The recipe: weaponize the neighbors from the Baltic states to Azerbaijan to “contain” Russia. Cold War 2.0 is on because, from the point of view of Washington’s elites, the first one never really left town.

Yet as much as the US may fight the emergence of a multipolar, multi-powered world, economic facts on the ground regularly point to such developments. The question remains: Will the decline of the hegemon be slow and reasonably dignified, or will the whole world be dragged down with it in what has been called “the Samson option”?

While we watch the spectacle unfold, with no end game in sight, keep in mind that a new force is growing in Eurasia, with the Sino-Russian strategic alliance threatening to dominate its heartland along with great stretches of its inner rim. Now, that’s a nightmare of Mackinderesque proportions from Washington’s point of view. Think, for instance, of how Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser who became a mentor on global politics to President Obama, would see it.

In his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski argued that “the struggle for global primacy [would] continue to be played” on the Eurasian “chessboard,” of which “Ukraine was a geopolitical pivot.” “If Moscow regains control over Ukraine,” he wrote at the time, Russia would “automatically regain the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.”

That remains most of the rationale behind the American imperial containment policy - from Russia’s European “near abroad” to the South China Sea. Still, with no endgame in sight, keep your eye on Russia pivoting to Asia, China pivoting across the world, and the BRICS hard at work trying to bring about the new Eurasian Century.


Russia, China Sign Deal to Bypass U.S. Dollar

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In a symbolic blow to U.S. global financial hegemony, Russia and China took a small step toward undercutting the domination of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency on Tuesday when Russia’s second biggest financial institution, VTB, signed a deal with Bank of China to bypass the dollar and pay each other in domestic currencies. The so-called Agreement on Cooperation — signed in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is on a visit to Shanghai — could be followed by a long-awaited announcement this week of a massive natural gas deal 10 years in the making.

“Our countries have done a huge job to reach a new historic landmark,” Putin said on Tuesday, making note of the $100 billion in annual trade between the two countries. Demand for the dollar, which has long served as a safe and reliable reserve currency in international transactions, has allowed the U.S. to borrow almost unlimited cash and spend well beyond its means, which some economists say has afforded the United States an outsize influence on world affairs.

But the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — a bloc of the world’s five major emerging economies, have long sought to diminish their dependence on the dollar, as a means of reshaping the world financial and geopolitical order. In the absence of a viable alternative, however, replacing it has proven difficult. For its part, “China sees the dominance of the dollar in international trade transactions as remnant of American global dominance, which they hope to overthrow in the years ahead. This is a small step in that direction, to reduce the primacy of the dollar in international trade,” said Michael Klare, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College.

Some have been tempted to view Tuesday's deal in the context of Putin's showdown with the West over the crisis in Ukraine. After the U.S. and Europe imposed sanctions on Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, Putin may have finally come good on promised retaliation against what he views as Western hegemony in Russia's near abroad.

“Breaking the dominance of the U.S. dollar in international trade between the BRICS is something that the group has been talking about for some time,” said Chris Weafer, a founding partner of Macro-Advisory, a consultancy in Moscow. “The Ukraine crisis and the threats voiced by the U.S. administration may well provide the catalyst for that to start happening,” he added.

To be sure, the Russia-China bank deal is mostly a symbolic step. Liza Ermolenko, an emerging markets economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in London, said the deal was still “a very small one, in the grand scale of things” and that it wouldn’t change Russia’s reliance on the dollar “overnight.” For one, most of Russia’s export contracts in the oil and gas markets are still priced in dollars, she noted, and on a wider scale, replacing the dollar with the ruble is much too risky to even consider. Likewise, even if China agrees to the gas deal, which could see over $450 billion of Russian natural gas flow into China over the next 30 years, Russia is not in a position to abandon its ties with Europe.

"From the commercial standpoint, Europe is the most profitable market for Gazprom,” said Mikhail Korchemkin, the founder of Eastern European Gas Analysis who has consulted for Gazprom. "Exports to China can generate a small profit, [and] only if the government makes it free of taxes and duties.”

But the bank deal is another indicator that Russia and China are in the middle of a wider rapprochement, which analysts say is premised not on ideological alignment but on a mutual desire to undercut the U.S. in their respective spheres of influence. Both countries are wary of President Barack Obama’s “pivot east,” a recalibration of U.S. foreign policy away from decades of war in the Middle East and toward the fast-growing economies of the east. Cynical observers have interpreted the shift as an effort to contain China.

"This is a marriage of mutual strategic interests, not a marriage of love," said Klare. “China wants energy and weapons from Russia, and Russia wants diplomatic backing and cash. Its a quid pro quo.”

Yet even if China feels threatened by U.S. encroachment, it is Russia who is desperately pursuing closer ties with China. Putin may have gotten the better of the Western powers in the showdown over Crimea, but at the cost of growing geopolitical isolation. Under intense pressure to demonstrate Russia's avowed independence from the West, Putin has repeatedly threatened that he could simply shut off its natural gas pipelines to Europe and find new markets for Russian energy exports. Separate that political posturing, the Russian imperative to find new markets for its energy exports is nonetheless very real. Energy demands in Europe have plateaued, and may even decline in the long term due to stringent environmental regulations.

“If Russia wants to continue to be a petrostate, it has to shift marketing of its exports to Asia," said Klare, who noted that Western energy conglomerates like Exxon-Mobil have begun doing the same.  “We don’t want to push this too far and see it as a formation of a new, global anti-American bloc that is starting a new Cold War,” he added. "This is market-driven more than its political."


Russia Signs $400 Billion Gas Deal With China

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Russia and China have at long last signed a natural gas supply contract valued at over $400 billion, in the first major deal signaling Russia's defiance of Western isolation since the crisis in Ukraine unfolded.

The deal between Russia’s state-owned OAO Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp. will involve 38 billion cubic meters of gas flow from fields in eastern Siberia into China over the next 30 years. It marks an important transition by Russia – a petrostate that holds the world’s largest reserve of natural gas – toward burgeoning Asian markets.

“This is the biggest contract in the history of the gas sector of the former USSR,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said shortly after the deal was announced. “Our Chinese friends are difficult, hard negotiators,” he added, noting that talks on the deal, which has stalled over pricing for nearly a decade, went on until 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessed the deal in Shanghai, where Putin was on a visit to forge ties as part of a gradual rapprochement between the two Eastern powers. A day earlier, the two leaders presided over an unprecedented agreement to bypass the U.S. dollar and use local currencies in certain international transactions – a shot across the bow of U.S. global financial hegemony.

The gas deal was struck at a pivotal moment for Moscow, which has vaunted its prospects for forging economic and political independence from the West in the wake of sanctions imposed as punishment for perceived Russian aggression in Ukraine. In the face of growing geopolitical isolation, Putin even threatened to shut off the Gazprom pipelines that supply Europe with about 30 percent of its natural gas.

“B. Obama should abandon the policy of isolating Russia: It will not work,” said Alexei Pushkov – a Putin loyalist and senior member of the Russian parliament who was personally subject to U.S. sanctions – in a tweet after the Gazprom deal was finalized.

Regarding the commercial benefit of the deal, the devil is in the details for Russia. Price had been the key hurdle that held up the deal for nearly a decade, with Russia demanding a higher price than China was willing to pay. China has long been able to buy gas from Turkmenistan at a relatively low price, whereas Gazprom has a “much sterner bargaining position in Europe,” said Liza Ermolenko, an emerging markets economist at London-based Capital Economics.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller did not disclose any of that information in a press conference after the deal was announced, but sources told Reuters that Gazprom outright refused to sink below $350 per thousand cubic meters – a price comparable to what European utilities pay. Putin confirmed that pricing structure and said it would continue to be tied to the market value of oil. He also said China would cover up-front costs of $20 billion for the infrastructure necessary to start gas flows.

But in the grand scheme of Russia's energy exports – more than $100 billion in oil and gas flow to European Union countries each year – the deal is medium-sized. Russia is not likely to abandon its energy investments in Europe anytime soon, contrary to threats issued in the heat of the Crimea showdown.

“From the commercial standpoint, Europe is the most profitable market for Gazprom. Exports to China can generate a small profit, but only if the government makes it free of taxes and duties,” said Mikhail Korchemkin, who founded Eastern Europe Natural Gas and has consulted for Gazprom in the past. “China is just not as desperate as Russia about this gas deal.”

Russia is also the world’s third-largest producer of oil after Saudi Arabia and the United States. With its hydrocarbon, oil and gas revenues accounting for more than 50 percent of its federal budget, it is considered a petrostate. Analysts say the Ukraine crisis has compounded pressure on Russia to diversify its export markets. Another brash foreign policy venture could have disastrous consequences for its one-note gas export structure.

“Because of the sanctions threat Moscow is just as keen to diversify its energy customer base and international banking relationships as Europe is to diversify gas supply,” said Chris Weafer, a founding partner of Macro-Advisory, a Moscow-based consultancy.

But analysts say this particular deal did not come out of nowhere. Russia’s urgency to sell gas to China is part of a global trend by energy conglomerates to shift marketing of exports toward Asia and away from Europe. Exxon-Mobil Corp., among others, has indicated that European demand has plateaued and is expected to decline in the coming years as environmental regulations clamp down on energy consumption.

Seperately, Gazprom has also been subject to an EU anti-trust lawsuit that could undercut the energy giant’s dominance on the continent. At the 2012 Asia-Pacific economic summit in the Russian city of Vladivostok, Putin said it was primarily this anti-trust suit that was pushing him away from the European market, according to an energy analyst who attended the conference.
Russia Seeks New World Order With China's Help

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As Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Shanghai to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the battle spaces of the 21st century are coming into focus in Eurasia. It is the Kremlin’s opinion that the balance of power at this moment is shifting away from the U.S. and its reluctant NATO allies, which dominated the second half of the 20th century, eastward to Russia, China and their Shanghai Cooperation Organization allies. Evidence of the transformation is not only in Ukraine and Eastern Europe — where Moscow holds a strong position to win what it wants in a decentralized Ukraine as well as to lay claim to a say in the affairs of the near abroad states of the old Soviet empire — but also in East Asia, where the reawakened potency of the Kremlin can be seen in the behavior of Russia’s rising ally, China.

China rising

After a year of standoffs in the East China Sea between China and its traditional rivals Japan and South Korea, there is fresh conflict in the South China Sea. On May 1, China suddenly moved an oil platform into contested waters 150 miles off Vietnam in the Paracel Islands. This is well within Vietnam’s claimed exclusive economic zone, yet China is enforcing a 10 kilometer security perimeter around its rig.

Anticipating trouble, China surrounded the drilling platform with coast guard vessels and, all told, more than six dozen ships of all sizes. This swift, calculated swarming into contested territory closely resembles other maneuvers by China against its neighbors, especially against the Philippines, such as the recent news of China’s building a landing zone on the cross-claimed Johnson’s Reef.

Vietnam erupted at the news of the Chinese aggression. Fierce anti-Chinese demonstrations in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other locations led to the deaths of Chinese nationals and a diplomatic fusillade that has not died down, despite calls from Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for order. China, not trusting that the Vietnamese nationalist reactions have played out, has launched the evacuation of thousands of Chinese nationals. 

The well-paced Chinese provocations against important U.S. allies in East Asia are designed to show both Asia and the world that the U.S. cannot be trusted to honor its mutual defense treaties.

China is also not taking risks with its Chinese National Offshore Oil Corp. property in the Paracels. Vietnamese media report that the Chinese navy has dispatched two of its largest amphibious ships, Jinggangshan and Kunlunshan, each packed with hundreds of troops, hovercraft, missiles and helicopters, in order to defend the rig from attack. In addition, the missile frigate Mianyang, carrying an ASW helicopter, will join the coast guard vessels to protect what China regards as its territory.

China’s plan to deploy an overwhelming force to secure a strategic asset has more than the Vietnamese government in mind. Beijing’s actions are timed to Putin’s state visit and a joint Russian-Chinese naval exercise in the South China Sea. Putin’s embassy aims to reaffirm economic and energy arrangements between the two nations. 

Military links are clearly critical for the future of the relationship. Beijing is bullying Hanoi at this time in order to demonstrate that it can move as baldly against its neighbor Vietnam as Moscow can move against its neighbor Ukraine.

Russian supremacy

The Kremlin believes that it holds the supreme position to command the supercontinent Eurasia. Moscow is constructing de facto alliances in Europe with Berlin and in Asia with Beijing in order to move beyond the rudimentary Shanghai Cooperation Organization — formed in 2001 and now including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — to a land-based empire of Russia and its clients.

What Moscow looks to ascertain in the next weeks and months is if Beijing is able to serve as a trustworthy partner in defending Eurasia and its interests from interventions by the United States and its allies.

In Putin’s grand imperial vision, what Moscow desires is a partner to secure the seas surrounding the Eurasian supercontinent. Moscow’s fleet can control the Northern Passage and the northern Pacific Rim. Moscow will use the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to trade with India and the Persian Gulf. What Moscow wants from China’s fleet is to secure the southern Pacific Rim as well as to control the sea routes in the Indian Ocean approaches to the Gulf and Africa.

Russia’s expectations of China are very high: proof not only that it can dominate its tiny neighbors but also that it can stymie the U.S. The well-paced Chinese provocations against important U.S. allies — Japan and South Korea in the East China Sea, the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea — are designed to show both Asia and the world that the U.S. cannot be trusted to honor its mutual defense treaties. (Even U.S. reconnaissance flights in the region are reportedly unarmed to avoid conflict.)

President Barack Obama’s recent embassy to reassure Tokyo, Seoul and Manila of U.S. security guarantees has been undermined by the Chinese intimidation of the outgunned Vietnam. 

China is not a reluctant provocateur. Ten years ago, the Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian Speech by Comrade Chi Haotian Vice-Chairman of China's Military Commission on the inevitability of war with the U.S. in order to achieve Chinese hegemony. Today, as a new cold war deepens between Moscow and Washington, Russia expects China to risk its profitable relations with the U.S. The Kremlin expects a partner willing to use force to secure their shared interests in the long struggle ahead for Eurasian domination.



Does Putin's visit to China mean the start of a new world order?



On May 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Shanghai for a state visit in an attempt to deepen ties between China and Russia. The two nations, which could end up signing as many as 30 different documents over a two-day period, are going to focus on high-priority fields of collaboration, including deeper economic ties and cooperation in the scientific and high tech sector. 

“Now Russia-China cooperation is advancing to a new stage of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction,” Putin said in an interview with the Chinese media released by the Kremlin on May 19. “It would not be wrong to say that it has reached the highest level in all its centuries-long history.” 

Although China and Russia failed to sign a $400 billion gas supply agreement on May 20, there is still a chance that the two sides could agree on a deal before Putin leaves China or, more likely, in time for an economic forum in the Russian city of St. Petersburg later this week. 

Amidst the Ukrainian crisis and the well-documented decline in Russia-West relations, this visit might have significant implications for the creation of a new world order. With Putin’s visit to China drawing the attention of both Russian and Western media, Russia Direct talked to a number of experts to find out about the long-term political and economic implications of closer Russia-China cooperation. 

Alexander Panov, Ambassador Extraordinary, senior research fellow at the Institute of the U.S. and Canada, professor at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University) 

[Putin’s] visit had been planned before the events in Ukraine and his major goal is to confirm strategic partnership in different international fields as well as agree on stepping up economic collaboration. The events in Ukraine and serious deterioration in Russia-West relations make this visit more significant globally. 

Both sides present an alternative to U.S. aspirations to maintain its dominant position in world politics and economics. Probably, upcoming agreements will be a starting point for an accelerated reshaping of the entire system of international relations. It may include closer bilateral collaboration, but not about the creation of a military-political bloc, which neither Beijing nor Moscow is interested in. 

Traditionally, China’s political culture doesn’t include the goal of joining a union with any countries, except North Korea. Agreements with this country resulted from China’s involvement in the Korean War, and currently, China supports the North Korean military under certain conditions. Likewise, Russia’s foreign policy strategy doesn’t seek to create military-political unions with other countries, except a union with Belarus. 

At the same time, the very fact that Moscow and Beijing are coming together amidst the current events in Ukraine is obviously seen in the world as a response to the Western policy of attempting to contain both Russia and China. 

Russia needs to join the Asia-Pacific Region’s economic processes not only by making far-reaching statements, but also by practical actions. Without support of China, Japan and South Korea – the leading economies in the region – it will be highly difficult to implement these plans. So far, Russia’s Far East remains closed or less attractive for foreign business. One of the goals of the Russian president’s visit to China is to start building a model of involvement of China’s business in the economic development of Russia’s Far East. 

Richard Weitz, senior fellow and director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute. He is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) 

Russia’s overarching goals in Asia generally include promoting multipolarity (limiting the influence of the United States but also includes managing China’s rise), developing beneficial economic relations, having a visible presence in all major Asian events and institutions (in accordance with the vision of Russia as a great power), and minimizing the adverse impact of regional disputes while seeking to exploit some of them to enhance Russia’s influence and interests.

The strategy of developing the Russian Far East by increasing its economic integration within East Asia has both defensive and offensive purposes. Moscow hopes to counter Chinese economic absorption of Siberia as a raw material appendage while simultaneously building a more solid foundation for promoting Russia’s regional influence. 

Russia’s most important Asian relationship is clearly with China. The two countries share interests in maintaining stability in the Korean peninsula, Central Asia, and the Middle East—all regions where their local allies are threatened by various forces. China has clearly emerged as Russia’s most important trading partner and gateway to other Asian markets, and soon could become its main source of foreign investment. 

Most importantly, Chinese officials make a show of treating their Russian counterparts as representatives of an equal great power, a status they deny India and Japan. When Xi visited Sochi, he played up his knowledge and respect for Russian culture and sought out time face-to-face with Putin.


Thanks to the convergence of their models of government and their national ideologies, Russian and Chinese leaders increasingly share a common conceptual framework that is distrustful of popular democracy and of unconstrained free market economics and that shuns criticisms over other countries’ human rights practices. Their joint statements and actions reinforce each other’s legitimacy. 

Nevertheless, the Russia-China relationship remains strategically limited in important respects. Their energy partnership continues its halting progress, with one step back for every two steps forward. Although China has now become Russia’s main trading partner, their bilateral exchange of goods, less than $100 billion in 2013, is much lower than that between China and its major Western partners. 

Russia-China military exercises are intermittent and not well integrated. In the UN and elsewhere, their diplomats more readily agree on what Western proposals they oppose than on how to advance a more proactive positive agenda. Nonetheless, the Russia-China relationship could evolve to have a greater global impact, to the possible detriment of the United States and its allies. For example, Moscow has benefited from Beijing's de facto acceptance of its activities in Ukraine, which Washington opposes. 

Nikolay Murashkin, Doctoral candidate, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, St. Catharine's College, University of Cambridge; former analyst at a London-based bank responsible for commodity transactions in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. 

With external tensions mounting for both countries, they seek mutual reassurance. While the bilateral gas deal has been on the negotiation table for two decades, it’s not only the chance to finally seal it, but also the opportunity for closer Russian-Chinese economic cooperation within a new geopolitical context. After gas talks were stalled over price and equity participation, the Kremlin’s bargaining power was recently reduced by the isolation measures adopted by the West in the aftermath of the Crimean crisis. In this situation, it is in Moscow’s interest to minimize possible concessions to Beijing by using the offer of a larger cooperation package as momentum driver. 

Although Chinese leaders are aware of their current upper hand in the gas deal, they also need Russia’s support in securing the new Silk Road Economic Belt project, where Moscow has a say as a Eurasian power and a regional transit player. In particular, the success of the Chinese Silk Road initiative depends on the planned International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, which, in its turn, is bound to raise the profiles of both Moscow and Beijing, which are stakeholders in Afghanistan. 

Securing friendship in the North is also important for Chinese diplomacy for two reasons. Beijing is, on the one hand, pressured in disputes with East Asian neighbors that are supported by Washington, and, on the other hand, facing a test in relations with the new Indian leadership. 

Whilst reinforcing Europe’s diversification policy to further reduce its energy reliance on Moscow, Russian gas supplies can make a huge difference in Northeast Asia. Procurement from Russia is likely to reduce the so-called Asian gas premium and lower the market price for Asian economies, thus helping their growth and even promoting Northeast Asian regionalism, which has been long stunted by rivalries between local powers. 

At the same time, it is crucial for Moscow to avoid putting too many eggs into China’s basket and to maintain a diversified gas customer base within Asia. That involves improving its commercial presence in Japan, whose demand for gas has been steadily increasing, as well as building one on the Korean peninsula. The same diversification logic applies for Russia’s Asia-Pacific drive beyond gas: Multilateralism is key, and rapprochement with China should not come at the cost of Russian ties with East Asian partners, be it Japan, Vietnam or other countries currently in a row with Beijing. 

Alexey Fenenko, leading Research Fellow at the Institute of International Security Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) 

The state visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to China is of substantial significance given the current bitter crisis in Russia’s relations with the West. Washington has consistently failed to build a diplomatic dialogue with Moscow during the last couple of years and the situation has become considerably worse over Ukraine, approaching an open political and military conflict. China, in turn, sees that Barack Obama is pursuing a containment policy against China by improving ties with Vietnam and expanding U.S. influence in the Asia Pacific region.

During the visit, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are expected to sign a deal to export Russian natural gas to China that will give Russia more freedom in its economic relations with the European Union by diversifying its export routes and enable China to meet its growing demand for energy. Creating an additional export path to the East will show the West that if anything happens, Russia can survive without them.

In regard to the question of Russian integration into the Asia Pacific region, it is important to say that here is a clear challenge. Since the 2001 Sino-Russian Treaty of Friendship, the countries of Asia Pacific see Russia as the ally of China. Hence, they do not show any interest in giving up their relations with America and building stronger political and economic ties with Russia. The only country that Russia can develop relations with is Vietnam, which is not in China’s interests. Russia has to choose between being friends with China and competing with the U.S. in developing strong relations with the states of Asia Pacific.


Russia and China: The Russian Liberals’ Revenge

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For much of the past two decades, Russian liberals have been telling their Western interlocutors that pushing Russia too hard or ignoring its interests would provoke Moscow to seek a closer relationship with China. Those repeated predictions, however, have repeatedly failed to materialize. Neither the enlargement of NATO to Central Europe in the 1990s nor NATO's 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia led to Moscow's about-face in its foreign policy priorities. Ditto for the U.S. role in support of color revolutions in the former Soviet Union in the mid-2000s and in encouraging Mikheil Saakashvili, who provoked in 2008 a brief war between Georgia and Russia. The ongoing crisis over Ukraine, however, is different.

On Russia's action in Crimea, China has adopted a formally neutral stance. As Moscow and Washington traded Cold War-style accusations and warnings, Beijing was hosting the U.S. secretary of defense, and later sent the PLA chief of staff to tour the United States. In their conversations with American counterparts, Chinese officials distanced themselves from Russia's actions. U.S. President Barack Obama even expressed hope that President Xi Jinping of China would join other world leaders in persuading Russian President Vladimir Putin to back off on Ukraine. Washington's desire to include Beijing in its effort to isolate "Putin's Russia" is understandable, but it also needs to be squared with the realities on the ground. 

It first needs to be recognized that, from the Chinese Communists' point of view, Russia's action in Crimea was far less disturbing than the earlier U.S. support for the Kiev maidan. Moreover, Moscow's successful politico-military-intelligence-psywar operation in Crimea can be of interest to Beijing as it considers various scenarios for future Taiwan-related developments. As to the ensuing confrontation between Russia and the United States over Ukraine, it diverts Washington's attention from China and absolutely guarantees that Russia, for a long time, will remain China's secure strategic rear. Finally, the U.S. sanctions upgrade China's importance to Russia as the one major economy in the world that is not susceptible to the U.S.-led sanctions drive.

Further, it needs to be noted that Russia's fear of China is usually—and conveniently—overstated in the West. In fact, Russia is perhaps the only neighbor of China that does not fret over the rise of its economy, the growing assertiveness of its foreign policy, or the increasing capabilities of its military. The Kremlin's calculus treats the first issue as an opportunity, the second one as aimed at establishing a multipolar world order which Moscow also welcomes, and the third one as directed mainly against the United States and its allies. Over the past 25 years, as the power balance between China and Russia was constantly changing for the benefit of the former, the relationship between Beijing and Moscow was progressively getting closer: a stunning phenomenon in the history of relations between two neighboring great powers.

Faced with U.S.-led geopolitical pressure in Eastern Europe and East Asia, Russia and China are likely to cooperate even more closely. Of course, Putin's economic project of a Greater Europe, linking his brainchild Eurasian Union with the EU, which has failed to ignite interest in Europe, will not yet be replaced with an expanded version of China's New Silk Road. Nor will the military alliance of the 1950s be revived; there is hardly a need for that. What might be expected instead is an energy, investment and industrial-technological partnership between China and Russia which will reshape and rebalance Eurasia, whose center of gravity will now move from Moscow to Beijing. Such an outcome would certainly benefit China, but it will give Russia a chance to withstand U.S. geopolitical pressure, compensate for the EU's coming energy re-orientation, develop Siberia and the Far East, and link itself to the Asia-Pacific region. The surviving Russian liberals of the 1990s will have the last laugh—before withering away.

Russian companies ‘de-dollarize’ and switch to yuan, other Asian currencies

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Russia will start settling more contracts in Asian currencies, especially the yuan, in order to lessen its dependence on the dollar market, and because of Western-led sanctions that could freeze funds at any moment.

“Over the last few weeks there has been a significant interest in the market from large Russian corporations to start using various products in renminbi and other Asian currencies, and to set up accounts in Asian locations,” Pavel Teplukhin, head of Deutsche Bank in Russia, told the Financial Times, which was published in an article on Sunday.

Diversifying trade accounts from dollars to the Chinese yuan and other Asian currencies such as the Hong Kong dollar and Singapore dollar has been a part of Russia’s pivot towards Asian as tension with Europe and the US remain strained over Russia’s action in Ukraine. Since Crimea voted to rejoin Russia, the US government has imposed Cold War era sanctions, which have hurt the Russian economy and have slowed lending and investment activity.

VTB, Russia’s second largest bank, intends to increase the amount of non-dollar settlements, according to the bank’s president Andrey Kostin. In May, Russia’s biggest gas producer, Gazprom, announced it wants to start trading shares in Singapore, obtaining a listing as early as July, the company said. Just before that Russia’s state-owned gas giant inked a $400 billion gas deal with China. 

“Given the amount of bilateral trade volume with China, of course, we are working on the expansion of settlement in rubles and yuan,” Kostin said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding this is a goal the bank has been moving towards since May.

A new payment plan

Russia's main tasks are expanding currency operations and creating Russia’s own forthcoming national payment system. The Central Bank of Russia is working on creating a national payment system, which both China and Japan have already established, and is expected to be up and running within four months. Alexander Dyukov, the CEO of Gazprom Neft, the oil division of Gazprom, has been very vocal about ditching the dollar over escalating pressure from the West.

"This shows that in principle there is nothing impossible - you can switch from dollar to euro and from euro, in principle, to rubles," Vedomosti quotes Mr. Dyukov.

He has also said the company has discussed with customers the possibility of shifting contracts out of dollars, while Norilsk Nickel told the FT that it was discussing denominating long-term contracts with Chinese consumers in renminbi. As of now, Russia is not preparing any countermeasures against the West, Putin’s chief advisor to the EU, Andrey Belousov has said.

“As long as Russia is not subject to systemic sanctions, which could bring an artificial limit to our economy’s access to dollars . . . then I don’t think Russia will take any steps in order to bring about artificial de-dollarization,” the FT quoted Belousov as saying.

Another swift move Russia has made towards Asia is the establishment of a joint rating agency with China, to replace more "biased" agencies like Fitch, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s.


The Resurgent, the Assertive, and the Uncertain: Power Shift in Eurasia

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From Ukraine to the South and East China Seas, the international system experiences new turbulence, even as it searches a new balance. Ostensibly, the United States and Russia are in a conflict over Ukraine. In reality, they are in a conflict over the fundamentals of the post-Cold War settlement. Russia, pushing back against expanding Western influence, is labeled revisionist and "resurgent." China is not yet in a conflict with the United States, but the Sino-U.S. relationship, too, is experiencing increasing strains. As its power grows, China advances its interests in the maritime zones east and south of its shores, for which it is termed "assertive." Worried, China's smaller neighbors in Asia, like Russia's in Europe, are flocking to seek U.S. protection, thus re-invigorating Cold War-era alliances and creating new informal ones.

Meanwhile, China and Russia continue to draw closer together. They are not in a clear alliance, and have a number of diverging, even partially colliding interests, but they both challenge the global order in which the United States is the norm-setter and the sole arbiter. The Chinese do this in a much subtler way than the Russians, but both appear to have come to the conclusion that working one's way into the U.S.-dominated system is not worth it. This may have worked for Germany and Japan in the aftermath of World War II, but China and Russia are adamant about their sovereignty and strategic independence. This, incidentally, imposes constraints on how close they themselves would wish to become, but China's and Russia's overriding interests point toward close long-term cooperation.

In mid-2014, for the first time in four decades, the U.S.'s relations with China and Russia are substantially worse than those two countries' bilateral relations. The lopsided triangle now being formed and probably ignored in Washington, where Russia is heavily discounted as a factor, has Beijing in a more advantageous position than ever before. This position would allow China access to more resources, and would make its strategic rear in the north even more secure as it deals with the issues south and east of its shores. The result is that the unique position that the United States has held since the 1990s as the dominant power in Eurasia is now history. Symbolically, the Pentagon's quiet departure last month from the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan closes the book on that era.


China Calls For New Security Pact With Russia, Iran

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Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for the creation of a new Asian organization for security cooperation with the participation of Iran and Russia. Xi voiced his call while addressing the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Shanghai, China.

“We need to innovate our security cooperation (and) establish new regional security cooperation architecture,” Xi told the summit, which was also attended by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Chinese president said CICA should also create a security response center to deal with emergencies. Xi said Asian nations should respond collectively to such significant problems as transnational crime, cyber security, energy security, terrorism and natural disasters. “We should have zero tolerance for terrorism, separatism and extremism and should strengthen international cooperation and step up the fight against the 'three forces',” he said.

The Chinese president also issued a veiled warning to the United States against building up a military presence in Asia, saying, “To beef up military alliances targeted at a third party is not conducive to maintaining common security in the region.”
CICA is a multinational forum to enhance cooperation in a bid to promote peace, security and stability in Asia. The forum groups 24 countries, among them Afghanistan, Azerbaijan Republic, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Nine countries and four international organizations, including the United Nations, have observer status. The CICA summit is convened every four years in order to conduct consultations, review the progress of CICA, and set priorities for its activities. 

China, Iran and Russia: Restructuring the global order

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Powerful countries are alarmed by the threats against Russia as they see themselves as potential future targets

At the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) that opens May 20 in Shanghai, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will meet with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among other things, the summit will underscore how rising non-Western powers are playing ever more prominent roles on the global stage. However, Western elites remain stuck in a time warp, wherein the United States and its European partners are the imperial masters of all they survey.

In this regard, it is an interesting coincidence how mainstream Western media outlets consistently produce narratives that are almost indistinguishable from official government statements regarding countries and leaders with dissimilar worldviews from their Western counterparts. For instance, we repeatedly hear about the democratically elected "dictators" in Venezuela, yet we are assured that friendly dictators are "moderate reformers".

Another fascinating coincidence is that Western human rights organisations pursue initiatives and policies closely aligned with those of their own governments. When the US accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its own people - notwithstanding noteworthy evidence to the contrary and despite the fact that it was fine as far as Washington was concerned when former Iraqi president Saddam Hossein attacked Iran with chemical weapons - some human rights advocates stood shoulder to shoulder with President Barack Obama in advocating "shock and awe" in Damascus for humanitarian purposes.

Contrary to what Saudi Princess Basmah Bint Saud states, Amnesty International's soft spot for Saudi Arabia may be linked to more than just oil - for this renowned organisation is a true believer in promoting human rights through liberal imperialism. Until recently, Amnesty USA was led by a former senior US government official who is a leading "humanitarian interventionist".

On the side-lines of the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, Amnesty International campaigned for NATO's continued occupation of Afghanistan under the rubric, "keep the progress going"; Amnesty's shadow summit for Afghan women was graced with the presence of none other than former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright known for commenting that over half million dead Iraqi children as a result of sanctions "was worth it".

Generous doses of hypocrisy

It is refreshing to see such consensus at all levels of public discourse in the "Free World". It seems that there is general agreement among European and North American elites that Western objectives are well-intentioned, even if highly generous doses of hypocrisy are administered on the way. Hence, the British foreign secretary, speaking on behalf of the so called Friends of Syria, just days ago welcomed "the fact that preparations for the presidential elections on May 25 are proceeding well" in violence-stricken Ukraine where roughly half the country rejects the Kiev-based coup regime.

Then, literally a minute later (and with a straight face), he condemned the "Assad regime's unilateral plan to hold illegitimate presidential elections on June 3. We say in our communique that this mocks the innocent lives lost in the conflict". Apparently there has been no significant loss of innocent life as a result of illegal cross border support for extremists and al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria over the last three years.

It is also remarkable that any perceived rival to Western power can almost immediately be compared to Adolf Hitler without raising many eyebrows. Benjamin Netanyahu and other Zionist advocates can repeatedly threaten the Iranian people with military strikes, yet simultaneously promote the false logic that the Islamic Republic wishes to create a holocaust by allegedly denying the Holocaust (whatever that means).

In recent weeks, we have once again returned to 1939 as the bizarre Hitler analogy is now being used to describe Putin. The irony here is that the right wing neo-Nazi groups within the pro-Western Kiev regime consider themselves as the Russian president's greatest foes. Indeed, for some, al-Nusra Front, Islamic Front in Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant analogy would be somewhat more appropriate to describe the Ukrainian political party, Right Sector.

Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was another one of many Hitlers in Western political discourse. When in 1956, he nationalised the Suez Canal, then British Prime Minister Anthony Eden viewed his actions as an insult to the British Empire. However, the "Suez moment" was a classic case of overreach for a rapidly declining empire that politicians in the US today should ponder.

Winner-take-all worldview

Their winner-take-all worldview, which has already resulted in widespread inequality and relative economic decline in the US, has also, since 2001, conditioned a series of "moments" whereby Washington's arrogant zero-sum mentality has produced one strategic failure after another.

Obama's pivot to Asia is viewed with scepticism, as the US already has more than it can handle in Ukraine, west Asia and North Africa. The real Asia pivot is driven by rapidly rising economies, especially China, as countries with major oil and gas reserves such as Russia, Iran and Iraq are already turning eastward.

The US government is caught in a web of self-deception if it believes that its declining global influence has gone unnoticed among the world's rising powers. Obama's pivot to Asia is viewed with scepticism, as the US already has more than it can handle in Ukraine, west Asia and North Africa. The real Asia pivot is driven by rapidly rising economies, especially China, as countries with major oil and gas reserves such as Russia, Iran and Iraq are already turning eastward.

In a 2012 report that some consider to be too conservative in its prognostications, the US multinational investment banking firm Goldman Sachs projects that by 2050 the US will be the only Western power among the top five global economies, with an economy much smaller than China's. In addition, the World Bank predicts that the US dollar will lose its current global dominance in roughly a decade.

Ironically, instead of attempting to build new bridges and forging new partnerships to stall their declining global status as the balance of power shifts away from Europe and North America, Western governments unwisely antagonise key powers. Spying on the Brazilian president does not help, denying a visa to the next Indian prime minister can spell trouble ahead, giving strong warnings to China can raise tensions - but threatening Russia with economic warfare may prove to be a game changer.

Of course, the US and its allies have already engaged in inhuman economic warfare against ordinary citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US has targeted the Iranian banking sector as well as the central bank and has threatened Iran's trading partners with punitive sanctions if they do not abide by US laws.

Many countries have protested against these US imperial dictates, but have so far largely abided by US demands in order to avoid its aggressive behaviour. However, with threats now being made against the Russian Federation, alarm bells have begun ringing, as powerful countries see themselves as potential future targets. Economic warfare against another major power will force emerging economic powerhouses to seriously think about the future of global financial and communications systems as well as the immediate need to enhance cooperation and to restructure the global political and economic order.

During the CICA Summit in Shanghai, Presidents Xi Jinping, Rouhani and Putin definitely have a lot to talk about.

Seyed Mohammad Marandi is professor of North American Studies and dean of the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran.


Why Are Russia and China (And Iran) Paramount Enemies for the U.S. Ruling Elite?

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Does it not seem strange that, with the Cold War long over, the Paramount Enemies of the United States remain Russia and China? That is not a bad question to ponder during Vladimir Putin’s visit with Xi Jinping in Beijing.

And there is no doubt that Russia and China hold this pariah status in the eyes of the U.S. imperial elite. In the last months we have watched the U.S. try to push Russia East and tear it apart. At the same time Obama traversed East Asia trying to stitch together an anti-China military and economic alliance in the Western Pacific with Japan as the linchpin. In fact it is striking that the U.S. has allied itself with neo-Nazism in Ukraine and Japanese militarism on the other side of Asia. This is happening despite the considerable changes that have taken place in both Russia and China, neither of which would any longer claim to be interested in an anti-capitalist crusade. The only country that comes close in the opprobrium heaped upon them by the West is Iran. Why do these countries, especially Russia and China, remain the enemies of the West? With the struggle against Soviet-style Communism long over, the reason is certainly not ideological.

This riddle finds its answer in a suggestion by Jean Bricmont in his Humanitarian Imperialism. He observes that the main political development of the last 100 years was not the defeat of fascism nor the fall of Soviet style Communism, but the battle against Western colonialism. And this battle is far from over, for most of the world is still subject to total or partial domination by the West, a condition that Sartre and Nkrumah dubbed neocolonialism. The colonized peoples of the world, the overwhelming majority of humanity, still live under the worst of material conditions. Originally Nkrumah described neocolonialism thus

The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment, under neo-colonialism, increases, rather than decreases, the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world. The struggle against neo-colonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed.

In the post Cold War world, the domination of the West has increasingly taken the form of direct military action by the U.S. with its Empire of Bases, subversion of defiant governments or “integration” of their military with the West, as is proceeding apace in Africa now.

How do Russia and China fit into this sweep of history?

Before the Bolshevik Revolution Lenin saw WWI as a war between the great European colonial powers, pitting England and its allies against Germany and its allies, for colonial spoils and imperial power. Or as has been said, England owned the world and Germany wanted it. That inter-imperial war precipitated the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, with the simple call for “Bread, land and peace,” and also a German Socialist Revolution which failed, forcing the Bolsheviks to turn inward.

The Bolsheviks were deadly serious. They took Russia and then the rest of the USSR out of the Western orbit, out of the ambit of the Western colonial powers, and they brought industrial development to their backward land. The failure of a revolution in Europe and the post WWI military assault on Russia by the West, including the U.S., meant that the USSR could no longer look to the West for advancement toward “socialism.” And because of Lenin’s view that the colonized nations needed to rebel against imperialism to advance and develop, the Bolsheviks also took up the cause of anticolonialism – from Africa to Latin America to Asia and, most importantly, to China.

In the end Russia became a great power and it remained out of the orbit of the West for over 70 years, almost three generations. Socialism and Communism were certainly not achieved, whatever one might mean by them. And that is a thing that disturbs most Left wing or “progressive” Western intellectuals to this day, most notably the Trotskyites and their ideological fellow travelers mired in the past. That outlook, however, misses the essential point in light of the struggle against colonialism. A proud independence, an escape from poverty and a severing of almost all institutional and economic ties with the West became accomplished facts in Russia. Few Russians studied abroad and few Westerners studied in Russia. There were no old school ties between the two.

Then came WWII, an attempt by Germany to conquer Europe and to destroy the Soviet Union. Out of this war came another great revolution, the Liberation of China. China had tried many things to escape the humiliation imposed on it by the West, including an attempt by Sun Yat-Sen and his followers to set up a Chinese democracy, Western style. One of those followers was Mao Zedong. With the failure of Sun and the victory of Lenin, Mao saw his chance, and he too adopted a Leninist Party structure but with emphasis on the peasantry. As Mao himself put it in July, 1949, The Russians made the October Revolution … and the revolutionary energy of the…laboring people of Russia, hitherto latent and unseen by foreigners, suddenly erupted like a volcano, and the Chinese and all mankind began to see the Russians in a new light. Then, and only then, did the Chinese enter an entirely new era in their thinking and their life.”

By 1946 China had defeated Japan and by 1949 the Chinese Communist Revolution secured victory. And then China closed the door to the West and established its independence. Ties with the West were severed decisively for nearly two generations. With its independence secured by Mao and baseline development achieved, China could “open the door” but from a position of strength. Deng’s reforms turned China into a great economic power. China today is the second most powerful nation on the planet, once again interacting with the West – but on its own terms, as does Russia.

So the Communists of Russia did not achieve Communism. But they did achieve independence and great economic and military power. Surely China’s achievement was the greatest blow against colonialism in the wake of WWII and the greatest anticolonial victory in history. Western Europe and the U.S. did all they could to defeat the Chinese Communists, and they failed. They were on the wrong side of history – the colonial side, the side of domination and humiliation of entire peoples.

So today we find these two great powers, Russia and China, recently driven into one another’s arms by the endless crusades of the West to undermine them. Together they constitute a great power center outside the control of the U.S. Empire. Bent on global domination, the U.S. cannot tolerate such a defiant and alternative center of power. The reason is that such a center provides an alternative for others who would gain their independence from the West. Such an organization as BRICS would not exist, or if it did would not mean much, without the “R” and the “C.”

But the battle against colonialism has not ended. Certainly India, most of Latin America, much of East Asia and most of Africa have yet to break free of the West and develop their full economic potential. (They certainly have not escaped underdevelopment while in the embrace of the West.) In some places governments defiant of the U.S. have emerged as in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador. Where once the U.S. fought battles against insurgent liberation movements, now it fights to bring down defiant governments or leaders, another insight of Bricmont. That is also a feature of neo-imperialism. Some, like Mossadegh, Allende and Chavez, were genuine democrats who wished to bring their people out of poverty. Others have not been so democracy minded, but defiance of the West has been the common denominator for those whom the West seeks to destroy. As the world knows by now, “democracy” and “human rights” have nothing to do with U.S. neo-imperial strategy. The two cross paths only by accident.

Let us be clear about this outlook. This view is not intended to be a paean to the Communist nature of the great 20th Century revolutions. In fact these revolutions were failures in terms of the goals that they set themselves. They did not achieve an egalitarian society at any point. But they did find the road to independence and development and now to advanced development, which they are still undertaking today. And they serve as an alternative to the West – a powerful one. In this sense they might be termed accidental revolutions. Little in history goes according to script no matter who writes it. It can be said, though, that in terms of the great struggle against colonialism and for human development the Russian and Chinese revolutions were on the right side of history. And they were the major steps in that battle in the 20th Century.

Finally, Iran is the third of the big three Paramount Enemies of the U.S. and the West. Interestingly, Iran followed the same course as China and Russia. After the overthrow of the duly elected social democrat and nationalist Mossadegh by the CIA and the imposition of a brutal dictator, the Shah, a revolution, led by clerics in this case, and a peaceful one at that, overthrew the Shah and cut ties with the West. The clerical establishment played the same role in Iran that the Communist Parties of China and Russia played there. They led a revolution for independence and development and they have kept Iran largely outside the orbit of the West for 35 years. They will engage the West now largely on their own terms, just as China and Russia have done. The form of organization to break free is not critical nor is the ideology. It can range from Communism to Islam and other ideologies and organizations may serve as well. Perhaps we are witnessing some new forms of organization in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. The resolve and intelligence with which the break is carried out and the degree to which the common people support and benefit from it are the crucial factors.

But for those on the Left, religious antiwar activists and Libertarians who have campaigned over the years against the wars of the West, this is good news. Those who have fought against Western “interventionism” have been on the right side of history – wittingly or more often unwittingly. Given the different ideologies that the anticolonial movements in the West have adopted, it might well be that the core motivation is the side of us which is humane, perhaps our inner Bonobo versus our inner Chimpanzee.

Now, unfortunately, the dominant “progressive” strain in the West has largely abandoned an anticolonial stance. The world is no longer viewed through the lens of the far from finished anticolonial struggle but through the dubious categories of “human rights” and “real, true democracy.” The likes of Pussy Riot have replaced Mao in the eyes of the Western “progressives.” And all too many progressives, Juan Cole and Amy Goodman among them, for example, cheered for the Obama/Hillary war on Libya as Gaddafi was crushed. It went unmentioned in such “progressive” circles that Gaddafi gave Libya the highest Human Development Index in all of Africa, stood in the forefront of the struggle against U.S.-backed Apartheid, both in South Africa and Israel, and advocated a Pan-Arabism and Pan-Africanism that would make for independence from the West.

In sum the “progressives” of the West are now viewing events on the world stage through the wrong lens, the same one used by their rulers when it suits them. It is time to return to the proper way of looking at what is going on in the world. Only then will the anti-colonial and anti-interventionist movement be restored on the Left.

For the genuine libertarians the matter is simpler. They have always held to the view that our government has no business interfering in the life of other nations. For them the emphasis has been on the other side of neocolonialism, neo-imperialism. They simply do not want their government intervening abroad, do not believe it is moral, and do not want to pay for it, a bit of good solid Ayn Randian self-interest. If progressives pull free of the faux cry for democracy and human rights peddled to them, the door is open for a very broad antiwar, anti-Empire movement. And the need for such cooperation is essential lest we stumble into a world conflagration.

John V. Walsh writes for The Unz Review, CounterPunch.com, Antiwar.com and DissidentVoice.org. By day he has toiled over the physiology of neurons. He can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com

Source: Why Are Russia and China (and Iran) Paramount Enemies For the U.S. Ruling Elite?

Five Ways Russia Could Help China's Military Become Even Deadlier

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The continued deterioration of relations between Russia and NATO may not yet have resulted in a new Cold War, but it’s undoubtedly produce an environment in which Russia has independent reasons to try to hurt the United States.

While the arms trade between China and Russia exploded after the fall of the Soviet Union, shipments of major systems slowed in the early part of last decade.  Part of the reason was demand; China felt that it no longer needed to pay top dollar for Russian systems that it could build itself.  Another reason, however, involved Russian intellectual property concerns stemming from Chinese copying, and potential export, of Russian military systems.  This made Russia reluctant to export its most sophisticated weapons.

But now we find ourselves in a situation where Moscow has become willing to take risks in order to give Washington a headache.  One way in which Russia can do this is overcoming any internal obstacles to the export of sophisticated weapons to China.

Although the Russian defense industry has decayed since the end of the Cold War, it still retains a great deal of expertise and human capital, which China (a growing military power) could use to good effect. What kind of systems might this involve? Here are five areas in which Russia-China collaboration could prove useful to Beijing, and problematic for America.

Jet Engines

Engine construction has been one of the biggest roadblocks in the Chinese aviation industry over the past decade. Problems with power and reliability afflict not only legacy systems (such as the J-10, J-11, and J-15), but also China’s new stealth fighter prototypes, the J-20 and the J-31.

Russian engines don’t have a reputation for extraordinary reliability, but they have consistently performed better than their Chinese counterparts. One analyst argues that China’s interest in acquiring Russian Su-35 Flankers stems from an interest in examining and replicating the engines, which would jumpstart China’s own jet engine industry.

Assisting China’s jet engine industry would represent a major risk for Russia.  It would eliminate one of the largest potential customers for Russian engines (China), while also improving China’s export position.  Nevertheless, under certain circumstances a long-term relationship might make sense, especially if Russia expected few new orders from the PRC in any case.  And Chinese jets with more powerful, reliable engines would prove a much more impressive threat to the U.S. Navy (USN) and the U.S. Air Force (USAF).

Bombers

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) continues to operate the H-6, a derivative of the old Soviet Tu-16 “Badger” bomber, a very rough equivalent of the US B-47.  Various reports suggest that China is looking into a new bomber, with at least one potential prototype in the works.

Russia has considerably more experience with heavy bombers that China, and still operates several variants that exceed the capabilities of anything the PLAAF has flown.  These include the Tu-95 Bear (and its maritime variant, the Tu-142), the Tu-22M Backfire, and the Tu-160 Blackjack.  All of these models are old, but would still represent an advance on what China currently operates.

Indeed, as the Soviets expected their strategic bomber force to operate against NATO naval forces, the Russian experience with bombers comports nicely with Chinese needs. Soviet bombers provided a critical threat to U.S. carrier battle groups during the Cold War, and would fit snugly within China’s anti-access system of systems.

Analysts have periodically raised the idea of a potential sale of Tu-22 Backfire bombers from Russia to China, but no deal has ever come to fruition.  The resistance appears to have come from the Russian side, out of concern about potential knowledge leakage and excessive growth of Chinese airpower. Indeed, Tu-22Ms would give China an additional long-range strike potential against U.S. bases and warships in the Pacific.

Whether Russia decided to export Tu-22Ms directly to China, to license their production, or simply to provide technical assistance with China’s new bomber projects, collaboration could produce a much more lethal PLAAF.

Submarines

As with other systems, China has leapt forward in the past 30 years with respect to submarine technology.  The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) now fields respectable nuclear attack submarines, diesel electric subs, and even ballistic missile subs.  However, these boats remain substantially behind U.S. standards, and even behind the standards set by the latest generation of Russian subs.

Despite Chinese advances, the PLAN could learn a lot from the Akulas, the Project 949s (Oscars), the Yuri Dolgurukiy, and even the troubled Ladas.  While the PLAN’s subs expect to fill broadly similar missions to those conducted by Soviet boats in the Cold War, Chinese submarines remain much noisier than their Russian counterparts, and China has yet to perfect a “hunter-killer” sub that can tangle directly with the most advanced American submarines.

To be sure, Russia has closely guarded its submarine technology in the past, and production techniques for submarines appear to be some of the most difficult industrial processes to master, or transfer.  Nevertheless, the leasing of an Akula to India in recent years suggests that Russia is open to the possibility of an arrangement.  Russia won’t supply China with everything it needs to build an equivalent of the Yuri Dolgurukiy, but an array of technical assistance could still substantially improve the next generation of Chinese submarines.

Air Defense Systems

In the concentration of China's anti-access system of systems, less attention has been paid to the air defense network.  Most literature has focused on the offensive elements of the defensive system, including submarines, cruise missiles, fighter-bombers, and ballistic missiles. And yet the integrity of the A2/AD system depends on the effectiveness of Chinese air defense systems.  If U.S. aircraft and cruise missiles can strike Chinese airbases, communications nodes, missile launchers, and logistics centers, then the entire system could fall apart before completing its mission.

China has done good work on its air defense system, especially with the internationally competitive HQ-9.  Nevertheless, the addition of Russia technology could only increase the robustness of the Chinese air defense network. Recently, it appears that Russia is preparing to export the S-400  SAM system to China, which would help the PLA fill both technical and coverage gaps. The S-400 can track and engage targets at a longer range than the HQ-9, allowing China to project an air umbrella over Taiwan.

Ballistic Missiles

China has made impressive leaps in the last twenty years with respect to ballistic missile technology.  Driven in part by the Second Artillery, Chinese ballistic missiles now represent a sophisticated, multifaceted threat to any potential opponent. However, China still has much to learn from Russia, both in terms of short range and long range missiles.  The Russian Iskander-E reputedly has terminal maneuvering characteristics that exceed any Chinese missile, and would provide the PLA with a major advantage in a wide array of potential conflicts.  Russian ICBMs and SLBMs are still considerably ahead of their Chinese counterparts.

As with several of the other systems, Russian objections to export rest in security and intellectual property concerns.  If China replicates Russian missile technology, the PRC could potentially muscle the Russians out of the export market.  Similarly, some in the Russian armed forces view the prospect of exporting advanced short range missiles to a large, powerful neighbor with some serious trepidation.  But then China may soon match Russian technology in any case, making reticence pointless.

Conclusion

Things have changed since the 1990s.  China has become an impressive producer of military technology in its own right.  It can no longer use everything that Russia produces, and its systems are increasingly competitive with Russia’s on the international market. For Russia, the risks of export to China have increased, especially because of concerns over China’s looe interpretation of intellectual property.  Nevertheless, if Russia doesn’t mind engaging in some risk-acceptant behavior that could hurt the United States, broadening its weapon exports to and technical cooperation with China could fit the bill.
 
Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat.


Russia, China, and Japan - Not US - Are Priorities for New Indian Leader


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Narendra Modi officially became India’s prime minister on Wednesday, and top sources say he is unenthusiastic about visiting the United States. Instead, he plans to prioritize strengthening ties with Russia, China and Japan. “[H]e is not in [a] hurry to visit America and does not want the trip to be put on the top of his priority list,” unnamed top sources in India told ibn Live. “Modi has still not made up his mind on accepting U.S. invite for an official visit to Washington. … Modi is … more enthusiastic about improving relations with China, Russia and Japan. He wants to give them preference over the United States of America.” Back in 2005, the U.S. revoked Modi’s visa on the grounds that he played a role in one of India’s bloodiest episodes of religious violence. ibn wonders if this snub now has Modi “trying to settle [the] score with the United States.” Whether Modi considers the score unsettled or not, it is clear he will be more Asia-oriented than any Indian ruler in recent memory. For this reason, his landslide election victory could be instrumental in shifting global power from West to East. To understand the shift, read our article “Results of Largest Election in Human History Mean India-Russia-China Ties Will Advance.”

Russia to Remain on India’s Radar Under Modi

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The landslide victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the lower house of India's parliament, the Lok Sabha (The People's Assembly), has totally changed the domestic political scene. Indian voters have made history by displaying the ballot power to wipe out the Indian National Congress Party, identified with the Nehru-Gandhi clan, which had been at the helm for most of the time since India became independent in August 1947.

No doubt, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, many dramatic changes will be in store for India's domestic life, which will certainly influence its foreign policy, traditionally called “Nehruvian.” However, the Nehruvian policy was never static and had been constantly evolving with the change of guard in the Prime Minister’s Office.

In India, it is not the External Affairs Ministry, but the Prime Minister's Office that decides foreign policy, and the national security advisor personally looks after its strategic and security dimensions.

The BJP election manifesto named no particular nation as the focus of its foreign policy, and it expressed a desire to work with all nations in “India’s national interests.” There is no doubt, however, that relations with troublesome neighbors like Pakistan and China will top its agenda.

What matters to Russia is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not only continue the policies of his predecessors, but also could be expected to infuse new blood into the bilateral strategic partnership. This agreement, by the way, was signed by another BJP prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s maiden visit to India in October 2000.

Russia is the only country of the world with which India has a highly structured dialogue mechanism—from annual summits to joint commissions on military-technical, trade, economic, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation—headed by the defense and external affairs ministers.

Russia is seen as a time-tested friend and has never fomented trouble for India through its neighbors. Besides this, Moscow is a reliable supplier of defense technologies denied to India under various U.S.-dominated control regimes.

Moscow also appreciates New Delhi's stance on various issues that have bearing on Russia's long-term interests. In the recent case of Ukraine, India expressed understanding of Russia's national interests in Crimea and refused to join the Western sanctions. Addressing a joint session of the Russian parliament, President Vladimir Putin appreciated India's “restrained” reaction on the Crimea annexation.

Shortly after Crimea’s annexation, Indian Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh visited Beijing and Moscow for consultations, signalling New Delhi's unwillingness to get involved in the West-Russia row over Ukraine. However, not everything is smooth and perfect in bilateral relations, spanning from high up in space to deep oil wells.

Against the backdrop of excellent—as claimed by the diplomats—political and defense relations, economic cooperation and trade are weak pillars of the strategic partnership between the two countries. Bilateral trade for many years has wobbled around 10 billion dollars. Modi, whose native state of Gujarat has benefited from the growing trade of rough diamonds and gas from Russia, will seek more opportunities for Indian investments in Russian diamond mining and hydrocarbons.

The West's desire to punish Russia through sanctions could be a boon to Modi's India. India had a thriving trade relationship with Moscow when the ex-USSR was under Western curbs and sanctions.

Another matter of concern for the Modi government would be the quality of Russia's arms trade with China. India is obviously envious of Moscow's growing bonhomie with Beijing. However, the export of sensitive defense technology to China by Moscow could have an adverse impact on the national security of India, as Russian military technology would eventually reach Pakistan via China.

Modi's BJP has declared a goal of obtaining self-sufficiency in defense, but for Russia to retain its lead in the Indian arms bazaar will require reformatting the future military-technical cooperation with India along the lines of the BrahMos cruise missile joint venture and joint R&D and production of weapon platforms like fifth generation fighter aircraft.

Stability in Afghanistan, Central Asia, nonproliferation, and anti-terror combat will also continue to remain the issues of closest cooperation between New Delhi and Moscow, especially in view of U.S. pull-out from Afghanistan.

Incidentally, in spite of obvious differences, one thing is common for Putin and Modi: both are highly popular in their countries, but despised by the liberals. Perhaps this commonality will help them develop personal chemistry and further advance bilateral relations when they first meet at the BRICS Summit in Brazil in mid-July.

Vinay Shukla is an independent Eurasia analyst and a former Moscow correspondent of United News of India (UNI) and Press Trust of India (PTI) wire agencies from 1988 to 2011. 

Source:http://carnegie.ru/eurasiaoutlook/?fa=55660 

Russia no longer needs to invade Ukraine

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Militants ambushed a convoy of Ukraine soldiers Tuesday, killing six soldiers as both sides had been moving toward possible peace talks in Kiev. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in Ukraine to try to broker talks between the central government and pro-Russia separatists who held a referendum to join Russia. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Ukraine has drawn up its own plan for ending the crisis and does not need European proposals.

Ukrainian forces have been trying to put down the armed insurgents in eastern Ukraine, where 40,000 Russian troops are massed on the border in preparation for a possible invasion. On Tuesday the Defense Ministry said six Ukrainian soldiers were killed by militants after the separatist leader in Luhansk, one of the regions that declared independence, was shot and wounded.

Russia has said Ukraine should respect the results of a weekend referendum run by the militants who said nearly 90% of people in the region voted for autonomy from the Ukrainian government. Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has the authority to invade to protect the ethnic Russians who make up the militancy.

European analysts say there is no need for Russia to invade eastern Ukraine now that it has gained ultimate authority over much of the country by its takeover of Crimea and declarations of independence in the pro-Russian east.

"The referendum actually advantages Russia," said Keir Giles, analyst at Chatham House's International Security and Russia and Eurasia Program London. "They do not need to have physical control of these regions to achieve their objective for the Ukraine, which is always has been to render Ukraine ungovernable."

Russia has called for the international community to respect the decision of the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and is calling for a "practical implementation of the outcome of the referendum in a civilized manner, without any repeat of violence and through dialogue," the Kremlin said.

The referendums follow one held in Crimea in mid-March by pro-Russian separatists there that resulted in a Russian military invasion and annexation of the Black Sea peninsula. Ukraine says the votes were rigged and the United States termed them illegal. Many have wondered if the latest votes are a pretext for Russian takeovers in the eastern Ukrainian regions.

"Russia annexed Crimea very quickly – we don't know if would be the same in Donetsk at all," said Andrew Wilson, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London, referring to a province in eastern Ukraine held captive by militants.

"In bigger-picture terms Russia can better control the guys in Crimea – they are real puppets. It is pretty unlikely that Russia would want to control south and eastern part of Ukraine as a whole, and it is pretty difficult to take only Donetsk."

Some analysts say if Russia ultimately accepts the move for independence, the provinces could end up as a puppet state.

"If Russia accepts the independence, we will have definitely a situation like in South Ossetia or Abkhazia or Transnistria, an independent state supported by Russia and in particular by the Russian military," said Liana Fix, an analyst specializing on the region at the German Council of Foreign Relations.

Meanwhile, Putin is pretending to lose control of the situation in the east just as he did when rebels in Donetsk kidnapped officials from the Organization for the Co-operation and Security in Europe, added Fix. That is to show he can present the face of a "good guy" to the world. But it has been largely pro-Russian separatists who for the past few weeks have stormed and occupied official buildings in eastern Ukraine, prompting the Ukrainian government to launch military operations to push them out.

"The situation is not as bad as it could yet be — it could go either way — but (it getting) even worse is more likely," Wilson said.


In Ukraine War, Kremlin Leaves No Fingerprints

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Not long ago, Alexander Borodai, a fast-talking Muscovite with a stylish goatee, worked as a consultant for an investment fund in Moscow. Today he is prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, zipping around town in a black S.U.V. with tinted windows and armed guards and commanding what he says are hundreds of fighters from Russia. Mr. Borodai is Russian, but says he has come to eastern Ukraine out of a surge of patriotism and a desire to help Russian speakers here protect their rights. As for the Kremlin, he says, there’s no connection.

“I’m an ordinary citizen of Russia, not a government worker,” said Mr. Borodai, 41, whose face crinkles easily into a smile. “A lot of people from Russia are coming to help these people. I am one of them.”

The Cold War-style standoff over Ukraine may have subsided for now. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has drawn his troops back from the border and has promised to work with Ukraine’s new government. But the shifting reality here in eastern Ukraine suggests the crisis has simply entered a new phase. In contrast to Crimea, which was seized by Russian troops in unmarked uniforms this spring, eastern Ukraine is evolving into a subtle game in which Russian freelancers shape events and the Kremlin plausibly denies involvement.

Here in the green flatlands of eastern Ukraine, reminders of Russia are everywhere. Outside a former Ukrainian National Guard base, now occupied by a rebel militia, a jovial fighter from Ossetia in southern Russia, who goes by the nickname Mamai, said he crossed the border about a month ago with other volunteers.

The central government building that Mr. Borodai’s forces now control, after sweeping out the ragtag local separatists who occupied it weeks ago, is festooned with a slick, Hollywood-style banner featuring Mr. Borodai’s friend, Igor Strelkov, a Russian citizen who is a rebel leader in the stronghold of Slovyansk. And on Thursday, rebel leaders shipped 33 coffins back to Russia through a remarkably porous border, announcing that the overwhelming majority of those killed in Monday’s battle with the Ukrainian Army were Russian citizens.

Mr. Putin may not be directing these events, but he is certainly their principal beneficiary. Instability in Ukraine’s east makes the country less palatable to the European Union and more vulnerable to Russian demands, forming a kind of insurance policy for future influence by Russia, which, at least so far, has avoided further sanctions from the West. Leaders of the Group of 7 countries will meet in Brussels on Wednesday, including President Obama, and Russia’s role in Ukraine is at the top of the agenda.

“They are creating facts on the ground,” said Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “The goal is clear: build structural guarantees against Ukraine’s potential NATO accession. Plausible deniability is key.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday expressed “deep concern in connection with the further escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine,” but did not address the Russian deaths. A request for comment on the Russian bodies and on Mr. Borodai went unanswered.

Reality in Ukraine seems constantly in flux, and the fact that the country has a new president-elect after careening headless for months could shift the kaleidoscope again. Petro O. Poroshenko, who was elected in a landslide last Sunday, is expected to meet Mr. Putin this summer, and if the two men are able to strike a deal, then Russian support for the separatists may wane, some experts said, though that will not necessarily stop them.

“Russia will keep supporting separatists below the radar as insurance to make sure Poroshenko agrees to a deal,” said Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist for the CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research group in Washington. “Once the deal is done, I think Putin will drop them.”

But much has changed between Ukraine and its giant neighbor in recent months and it is not clear how much their interests will overlap. Nor is Kiev entirely without cards to play. On Monday its military inflicted serious damage on the largely Russian separatist force, killing more than 40 fighters and raising the possibility that the military has at least some chance of succeeding.

What Russia would do if that started to happen is an open question. But for now, at least, the strategy seems to be to destabilize Ukraine as much as possible without leaving conclusive evidence that would trigger more sanctions.

“I don’t think he has blinked,” said Matthew Rojansky, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, referring to Mr. Putin’s not invading eastern Ukraine. “He has eased up because he sees a situation that he likes better.”

That leaves Mr. Borodai as a central figure in Ukraine’s immediate future. He may seem to have come out of nowhere, but in Russia he is a known quantity. He comes from a group of ultranationalists who were part of the far-right Zavtra newspaper in the 1990s. Their Pan-Slavic ideas, aiming for the unity of Slavic peoples, were considered marginal at the time. But they have now moved into the mainstream, helping formulate the worldview of today’s Kremlin, said Oleg Kashin, a Russian investigative journalist who has written extensively about Mr. Borodai.

“He’s the Karl Rove of Russian imperialism,” said Irena Chalupa, a fellow at the Atlantic Council.

When Mr. Borodai talks, people here listen. Surrounded by armed guards with scowling faces, Mr. Borodai stood with a microphone at the center of a large crowd that had gathered last weekend outside the compound of a local oligarch. They wanted to break in and declare it national property.

“I know many of you want a tour,” he said smiling, as the crowd cheered. “I respect that desire. But right now a tour is not possible.”

In an interview, Mr. Borodai said that he and Mr. Strelkov, the Russian rebel commander in Slovyansk, had both gone to Transnistria, a breakaway area in Moldova, to defend the rights of Russians in the 1990s. He named the cities in Russia that volunteers have come from, including Novosibirsk, Vladivostok and Chita. He said he believed in the idea of a Greater Russia, and that he had come to Ukraine to realize it. “Real Ukrainians have the right to live as they like,” he said. “They can create their own state which would be named Ukraine, or however they like, because the word Ukraine is a little humiliating,” he said, asserting that the literal translation meant “on the border of.” (The etymology is disputed.)

He explained that Ukrainians “have their heroes, their values, their religion,” but that “we also want to live as we want to live. We think that we have that right. And if we need to, we will assert that right.”

Roman Szporluk, emeritus professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, said such language was worrying. “Putin would like to Yugoslavize Ukraine,” he said. “He wants to create an ethnic conflict where one did not exist.”

No one here seems to know where Mr. Borodai came from or what his allegiances are. But such things do not matter. “They are good guys, they are our guys, they are protecting us against Kiev’s aggression,” said Lidia Lisichkina, a 55-year-old geologist who is an ethnic Russian. Mr. Kashin, the investigative journalist, does not believe that either Mr. Borodai or Mr. Strelkov is acting on behalf of the Russian government. “This is not the hand of Moscow, it’s just Borodai,” Mr. Kashin said.

Local rebel leaders say their goals coincide. Roman Lyagin, an election specialist from Donetsk who is responsible for pensions and wages in the new republic (so far they are still paid by Kiev), said one of the main tasks is to push separatist control farther west to “create a land route from Russia to Crimea.”

“People there need oatmeal, television and underwear,” he said.

At the regional administration building on Friday, Mr. Borodai was busy consolidating his power, holding his first government meeting after his forces swept out the local separatists. The former National Guard base was buzzing with activity. A white minivan full of armed men in black balaclavas zoomed out of a large metal gate, its purple curtains pulled partly closed. A man wearing civilian clothes carried two large black bags to a hatchback station wagon and sped away.

Outside the gate, Mamai, the Ossetian fighter, said he had not come to Ukraine for money. He had a business doing security for banks in Vladikavkaz, where he lives. “Everyone who wants to be with Russia,” he said, “those are our brothers.”

Source: www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/world/europe/in-ukraine-war-kremlin-leaves-no-fingerprints.html

Ukraine Says Pro-Russian Militants Won the East

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It is by now a well-established pattern. Armed, masked men in their 20s to 40s storm a public building of high symbolic value in a city somewhere in eastern Ukraine, evict anyone still there, seize weapons and ammunition, throw up barricades and proclaim themselves the rulers of a “people’s republic.” It is not clear who is in charge or how the militias are organized.

Through such tactics, a few thousand pro-Russian militants have seized buildings in about a dozen cities, effectively establishing control over much of an industrial region of about 6.5 million nestled against the Russian border.

Day by day, in the areas surrounding the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, pro-Russian forces have defied all efforts by the central government to re-establish its authority, and on Wednesday, Ukraine’s acting president conceded what had long been obvious: The government’s police and security officials had lost control.

“Inactivity, helplessness and even criminal betrayal” plague the security forces, the acting leader, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, told a meeting of regional governors in Kiev. “It is hard to accept but it’s the truth. The majority of law enforcers in the east are incapable of performing their duties.”


With Mr. Turchynov’s acknowledgment that a significant chunk of the country had slipped from the government’s grasp, the long-simmering conflict in Ukraine seemed to enter a new and more dangerous phase. Whether that amounts to the lasting dismemberment of Ukraine or hands control of the east to Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin, were among the many questions left unanswered after Mr. Turchynov delivered his stark assessment.

Whatever the long-term effects, the militants’ seizure of symbolic buildings in cities throughout the country’s southeast is serving what analysts in Russia and the West say is Mr. Putin’s short-term goal of so disrupting normal life there that the pro-Russian separatists’ plans for a May 11 vote on autonomy from Kiev could trump Ukraine’s plans to hold a presidential election two weeks later.

While Russia denies any role in stirring the unrest, Secretary of State John Kerry and others have flatly accused the Kremlin of sending operatives to the region to organize, equip and direct the Ukrainians who make up the pro-Russian militias.

The presence of 40,000 Russian troops just over the border is also contributing to the instability, particularly as Russia has warned repeatedly that it will intervene in Ukraine if the safety of the ethnic Russians there is threatened, a sweeping claim that could justify an incursion at almost any time.

But so far that has not been necessary. Through stealth and misdirection, and in defiance of Western sanctions, Russia has managed to achieve its immediate goal of what Western and Ukrainian officials believe is rendering Ukraine so chaotic that it cannot guarantee order, mend its teetering economy or elect new leaders to replace Mr. Turchynov and the acting government installed after the pro-Russian president, Victor F. Yanukovych, fled in February.

“Until May 25,” when the presidential vote is scheduled, “is unfortunately still a lot of time,” said Olga Aivazovska, a co-founder of Opora, an independent election monitoring and polling group. Whether a vote will take place — and how valid it could be if parts of the east do not take part — “is a big puzzle,” she said.

Days after imposing new sanctions on Russia, President Obama announced that he would travel to Poland in June to reassure Eastern Europeans nervous about Moscow’s aggression. The Poland stop will be added to a previously scheduled trip to Normandy to mark the anniversary of D-Day and to Brussels to meet with other members of the Group of 8, reconstituting it as the Group of 7 now that Russia has been suspended.

But none of that is expected to deter the militants. Since April 6, they have been smashing their way into local offices and hastily erecting barricades outside, wearing uniforms without insignias. The latest to fall was Horlivka, where on Wednesday armed men appeared at the City Council building and began checking the documents of anyone entering.

In Donetsk, a tough mining city, the militants say they will conduct a referendum on May 11, and other cities under separatist control are expected to follow suit. Gunmen in Luhansk seized control of that city’s administration on Tuesday and declared their intent to join in. To date, however, there are no voting offices, nor have any ballots been distributed. They have not even decided what question they want to put before voters.

Nevertheless, the buildings now seized could serve the effort. A sample ballot reported in the Russian news media suggested voters would be asked whether they support a declaration of independence for the “people’s republic.” There was no mention of joining Russia. Although Russian is widely spoken in the east, which abuts Russia, credible opinion polls suggest that at most 20 percent of citizens want to join their giant neighbor, Ms. Aivazovska said.

For Mr. Putin, the disruption ensures that Ukraine cannot firmly join the West by becoming a member of NATO or the European Union. That would comport with his strategy in Georgia and Moldova, where Russian troops occupy small sections of the country, with Moscow leaving the status of the enclaves up in the air, neither leaving nor claiming them as Russian territory.

After five months of violence and revolution, Ms. Aivazovska said, nerves are jangled. “You go to bed at night not knowing whether you will wake up in a different country,” she added, echoing almost word for word a leading writer, Oksana Zabuzhko, interviewed two days earlier.

In some ways, the situation seems no more certain for Mr. Putin. As leaders in Serbia and Croatia discovered during the Balkan wars in the 1990s, once guns, money and a little importance are doled out to locals charged with unsettling their territory, the militants can slip from their supporters’ grasp.

In Slovyansk, the eastern Ukrainian town where the armed men are most firmly in control, local militia leaders say they now hold about 40 people, including seven Europeans in a German-led military observer mission captured last Friday. They were paraded before cameras Sunday, much as scores of United Nations peacekeepers captured by Bosnian Serbs in 1995 were filmed chained to bridges.

Mr. Putin, who values relations with Germany, where he was once a K.G.B. officer, hinted early Wednesday that the observers could be freed. The self-appointed mayor of Slovyansk responded via the website of Bild, Germany’s top-selling newspaper: “We have had no contact with Moscow yet, and here we don’t obey Putin but the People’s Republic of Donetsk.”

On top of nerves, Ukraine’s economy is worryingly frail. The board of the International Monetary Fund voted Wednesday to approve $17 billion in loans for Ukraine, with conditions that will undoubtedly be felt as hardships by ordinary Ukrainians. Igor Burakovsky, head of the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting, said on Wednesday that Ukraine’s foreign debt amounts to $73.2 billion.

This includes several billion dollars — the exact amount is fiercely disputed — owed for deliveries of Russian natural gas on which Ukraine depends each winter, and which passes through its territory to European clients of the Russian gas concern Gazprom.

Unlike some of the militants now strutting Ukraine’s east, or other friends of Mr. Putin, the head of Gazprom, Alexei Miller, was not sanctioned this week by the United States or the 28-nation European Union, where at least 10 former Soviet bloc countries depend wholly or largely on Russian gas for heat and power.

Much is being rethought in Europe after Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea and continuing intervention in Ukraine. This week, Slovakia undertook to supply Ukraine with some natural gas.

For writers, said Ms. Zabuzhko, the events of the last five months have pushed on her and fellow authors the duty of serving as a secular moral authority in the absence of credible politicians. “I have a new profession,” she said, “for which I was not applying.” Ukrainians, she added, “are searching for stability and hope — they want a glimpse of hope.”



Isolation deepens in breakaway Ukrainian region as separatists dream of New Russia

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When separatists here staged a referendum to break away from Ukraine last month, the vote was mocked in Western capitals as a Soviet-style farce. But in recent days, the split between southeastern Ukraine and the rest of the country has become all too real.


The gleaming airport terminal that put Kiev a commuter-flight away has been shot to bits, with travel to the capital now marked by a bone-jangling journey past rebel checkpoints. A presidential election held everywhere else in Ukraine did not happen here because of security threats. The governor fled for the same reason.


The region’s solidifying status as an island apart from Ukraine will make it harder to put this country back together again. So, too, will the ambitions of separatists, who see the areas they control as a beachhead in a wider campaign to cleave away half the country under the banner of Novorossiya — New Russia.


The idea, straight from the musings of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has become a rallying cry of insurgents here who see Kiev as an enemy capital and Moscow as their natural ally and benefactor. The proposed new entity even has a flag — one that Americans would instantly recognize as a symbol of separatist rebellion, with its blue bars laid diagonally across a red field. About 350 recruits are engaged in exercises with Ukraine's national guard in preparation for deployment to the east.


“Just like the Confederacy,” said a smiling Pavel Gubarev, an insurgent leader who calls himself the people’s governor of Donetsk. The blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag, meanwhile, is rarely seen in this leafy city of 1 million in the middle of the country’s industrial heartland. To speak out in favor of Kiev is to invite attack from rebels who rule the streets and who have shown a taste for brutality.


Gubarev, like all top officials of the separatist movement here, has an office in this city’s occupied administration building. He has decorated his with photos of Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez, and his aspirations are no less revolutionary than were those of his idols. “We will destroy corruption and distribute the powers of the oligarchs to the people,” said Gubarev, a boyish 31-year-old who said he ran an advertising agency with 81 employees before appointing himself to lead this region of 4.5 million people.


Ukrainian officials say the rebellion’s true goals are far more insidious. The Donetsk People’s Republic, they say, is nothing more than a prop for Russia as it seeks to spread chaos and dismember Ukraine, a process that they say began with the Russian annexation of Crimea in March. Even if southeastern Ukraine is not formally absorbed into Russia, Ukrainian officials worry that Moscow intends to keep the area in its orbit as a breakaway republic, just as it did with South Ossetia and Abkhazia after the 2008 war with Georgia.


“This horrible thing was started by Putin, and it can be stopped by Putin, too,” said Konstantin Batozsky, a senior adviser to the governor of Donetsk, Serhiy Taruta,who recently decamped for Kiev as security here deteriorated.


Evidence of Russian meddling has mounted in the past week as rebel leaders have acknowledged that many of their fighters are “volunteers” from across the border, although the leaders deny any official Russian backing, as does Moscow. The admission coincides with reports from Ukrainian officials of mounting infiltration from the east, as trucks weighed down with militants and weapons slip across a border that exists on maps but not on the ground.

Source: Isolation deepens in breakaway Ukrainian region as separatists dream of New Russia


Ukraine's Tenuous Grip on Russian Border Slips Further

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Ukraine lost even more control over its porous border with Russia on Friday when it abandoned eight border posts that had become the target of sustained attacks from separatist fighters. Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of allowing fighters and arms to filter across the border to join the rebellion in the east, an allegation Russia has denied. Ukrainian authorities had moved to reinforce the border crossings in the east, but fighting further from the frontier had left the posts increasingly cut off from the rest of Ukraine's forces.


The State Border Guard Service said it had opted to pull its forces back from the crossings into Russia's Rostov region because it had become impossible to "prevent a threat to the lives and health of the local population." Seven of the posts are in the southeastern Luhansk region, where pro-Russian rebels appear to have gained firmer control in recent days despite a stepped-up military operation ordered by the government in Kiev.

The eighth crossing at Marynivka, in neighboring Donetsk region, was the scene of heavy fighting on Thursday. The border service said the battle raged for hours after an armored personnel carrier, seven vehicles loaded with fighters and four flatbed trucks equipped with machine-gun turrets approached the border posts from both sides of the frontier. Video from the aftermath of the battle posted on the border service website showed the smoldering remains of one of the trucks burning in a ditch next to a road on the Russian side of the border.

Russia's Federal Border Guard Service—which has insisted it doesn't allow anyone to cross illegally into Ukraine—didn't address the allegation that fighters had attacked from Russian territory, but noted the Ukrainian post sits nearly 2 miles inside the border. Its statement said that the attack had been repulsed with the help of airstrikes by Ukrainian fighter jets, and that none of the ordnance from the planes landed on Russian soil.


Russia has increasingly tried to depict Ukraine's military assault in the east as a humanitarian issue. On Thursday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the fighting has driven thousands of Ukrainian civilians across the border into Russia. Kiev, however, said there was little evidence of a refugee crisis. The Ukrainian border service said it had seen no detectable spike in the number of people crossing into Russia. On Friday, Russian lawmaker Vladimir Pligin told the Interfax news agency that Russia had received about 800 requests for refugee status from people coming in from Ukraine.


This past week, Russia put a resolution before the United Nations Security Council calling for the creation of corridors allowing noncombatants to leave parts of eastern Ukraine where heavy fighting continues, and it has insisted that Ukraine cease what it calls military operations against civilians. The West has reacted coolly to Russia's U.N. proposal and has been skeptical of previous claims about asylum seekers.


On May 20, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees issued a report saying that while an estimated 10,000 Ukrainians had been displaced within the country, "the number of Ukrainian asylum-seekers in other countries has remained low."

Source: http://online.wsj.com/articles/ukraines-tenuous-grip-on-russian-border-slips-further-1402053327

‘Masterly’ Russian operations in Ukraine leave Nato one step behind

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The running theme of Nato’s criticism of Russia is that when it comes to Ukraine, the Kremlin has slipped back into a cold war mentality. But while Russia’s strategic thinking might recall the ruthless geopolitics of the past century, its tactics for military analysts have been a model of warfare in the 21st, employing everything from small groups of unidentifiable specialist personnel to cyber warfare.

In more than a dozen interviews, planners, security officials and members of the intelligence community have spoken of Moscow with universal, if grudging, praise. Tactically, they say, Russia has waged a dexterous and comprehensive campaign, and has been one step ahead at every turn. The Kremlin’s operations on the ground have been “masterly”, said one.

“I have been impressed. The eminent deniability of it all – this has been an exactly and beautifully calibrated operation . . . silent but deadly effective,” said Jonathan Eyal, international director of the Royal United Services Institute in London. The west “has been off-guard from day one”.

Last week, the north Atlantic military alliance ramped up its efforts to put a lid on matters. On Thursday, while at the summit of the Group of Seven industrialised powers, Nato members outlined plans to toughen sanctions if Russia’s alleged meddling east of the river Dnieper did not stop.

Russia has continued to be strident in its denial of involvement. The foreign ministry said accusations of Russian arms making their way over the border were “the work of the devil”. Proving that Moscow is entangled in eastern Ukraine may be key to any Nato attempt to reach a diplomatic resolution to the crisis – but Russia’s actions there have been even more difficult to pin down than its involvement in Crimea.

“In Crimea, there was an obvious concentration of forces,” said one senior Nato military officer. “In eastern Ukraine, it’s much more specialist troops. It’s a small number – a very small number. These sort of characters do their work and then disappear very quickly, leaving things to the militias to take over.”

He points to examples where six-man groups, armed with expensive Russian kit such as VSS Vintorez sniper rifles and wearing special forces camouflage, have been observed aiding rebels.

Other figures are of even more interest to Nato intelligence chiefs. In one dossier of photographs seen by the Financial Times, another senior officer from a Nato state pointed not to armed men but to seemingly innocuous individuals among them in civilian garb. These were the men in charge, he said, judging by their positioning, body language and behaviour. They were almost certainly agents of the SVR or the FSB, Russia’s sprawling foreign and domestic intelligence services.

While the evidence is circumstantial at best, the FSB, in particular, has an undoubted long-running involvement in Ukraine – a position it has clung to since the end of the cold war isolated its regional security apparatus there.

“When it comes to near abroad, it is the FSB and not the SVR that is doing the work,” said Nigel Inkster, who was until 2006 director of operations and intelligence for the British agency MI6 and is now director of transnational threats at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think-tank. “For Russia, [Ukraine] is still regarded as an internal issue.

“Everybody looks at what is happening in east Ukraine and they think in terms of tanks and conventional military capabilities, but the Russian state has always invested heavily in the special services and the intelligence agencies. They are the ones involved here.”

The tactics being used are “classic techniques” of the FSB, Mr Inkster says. He adds that such actions – “planning, incitement, organisation of local forces, and intelligence” – can take place without using large numbers of personnel. A senior Nato bureaucrat said the sequencing of separatist attacks suggested a guiding hand. Militias first targeted government buildings and communications centres, followed by key supply points and then harder targets such as military installations.

Ukrainian forces have been outwitted several times. In Konstantinovka last month, during an attempted ambush of Russian paramilitaries, the pro-Kiev Donbas militia was ambushed. This week, separatists seized control of two Ukrainian military bases in Luhansk. Behind these successes lies a well-resourced intelligence machine, according to the Nato narrative. Indeed, this is perhaps what has most impressed Nato strategists.

In classic “humint” – human intelligence – terms, Russia has a longstanding advantage over Kiev. Ukrainian intelligence officials say the government of the ousted president Viktor Yanukovich planted so many spooks within their ranks that they now comprise up to a third of all Ukrainian senior security, counter-intelligence and military intelligence officers.

Then there is cyber space. Russia is widely believed to be the author of a virulent form of malware known as “Snake” that has infected hundreds – possibly thousands – of Ukrainian IT systems, giving operators unfettered access to data. Nato has yet to develop a suitable response to Russia’s covert activities.

“We would describe it as an influence operation,” said a senior Nato officer. “Russia has very effectively employed all of the tools of power: information, diplomacy, politics, military might – both overt and unconventional – and economic.”

With that in mind, it is ironic that for all of its accusations against Russia, it is Nato that is looking like it is stuck in the Iron Curtain era, as it tries to fly more planes, exercise more troops and sail more ships ever closer to Russia.

Source: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a5829d60-ed48-11e3-8a1e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz343uJAOAE

Russia holds military drills to repel nuclear strike

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President Vladimir Putin has overseen military drills on countering nuclear strike. The planned drills come ahead of the May 9 celebrations dedicated to victory in World War II.

"We are carrying out tests of the readiness of the Russian armed forces. It was announced last November. The exercises will involve all branches of the armed forces across the country," Putin told reporters at the Defense Ministry.

Modern challenges and threats to the country’s national security demand that the army and the fleet are maintained in readiness for quick and effective retaliation in any conditions, the Russian Defense Minister and army general Sergey Shoigu told Putin in a report. During the drills, it was demonstrated how the missile corps, artillery, aviation and anti-aircraft defenses can be used – for instance, to destroy troops on the ground or to counter massive missile, aviation or nuclear strikes by an enemy. 

Plus, it was shown how to inflict a launch-through-attack strike with nuclear missiles. The training exercises, which are due to include ground troops and artillery as well as the air force, were held during a summit of heads of state of a security bloc made up of former Soviet states. Led by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian aerospace defense troops have successfully overridden a massive nuclear missile strike, an official representative of the Russian Defense Ministry told RIA Novosti news agency.

"At the Priozersk training area (Kazakhstan), a successful interception of a ballistic target by a short-range countermissile was carried out. A massive rocket nuclear strike was repelled by a ballistic missile defense unit of air and missile defense troops," the representative said.

The representative also detailed that the combat crews of Armies of Aerospace Defense have discovered and accompanied the ballistic targets with the launch of a short-range interception missile of the Amur complex.

“The anti-missile system successfully struck the target that imitated a ballistic rocket,” the representative added.

The strategic weapon carrier Tu-95MC conducted launches of six cruise missiles aiming at targets on the ground in the aviation training area of the Western military district, as part of the drills. The simulated targets were key facilities of military infrastructure of a hypothetical enemy. All the targets were hit as planned, Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed. The presidents of Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan observed the drills from the Russian National Defense Command Center. Strategic bomber aircraft and underwater missile carriers of the Pacific and Northern fleets were involved in the drills. Also, strategic land-based mobile missile systems, as well as the missile corps of the Southern and Central military districts, participated in the tests.



It's not Russia that's pushed Ukraine to the brink of war

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The attempt to lever Kiev into the western camp by ousting an elected leader made conflict certain. It could be a threat to us all


'The reality is that after two decades of Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west's attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit …

The threat of war in Ukraine is growing. As the unelected government in Kiev declares itself unable to control the rebellion in the country's east, John Kerry brands Russia a rogue state. The US and the European Union step up sanctions against the Kremlin, accusing it of destabilising Ukraine. The White House is reported to be set on a new cold war policy with the aim of turning Russia into a "pariah state".

That might be more explicable if what is going on in eastern Ukraine now were not the mirror image of what took place in Kiev a couple of months ago. Then, it was armed protesters in Maidan Square seizing government buildings and demanding a change of government and constitution. US and European leaders championed the "masked militants" and denounced the elected government for its crackdown, just as they now back the unelected government's use of force against rebels occupying police stations and town halls in cities such as Slavyansk and Donetsk.

"America is with you," Senator John McCain told demonstrators then, standing shoulder to shoulder with the leader of the far-right Svoboda party as the US ambassador haggled with the state department over who would make up the new Ukrainian government.

When the Ukrainian president was replaced by a US-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover, politicians such as William Hague brazenly misled parliament about the legality of what had taken place: the imposition of a pro-western government on Russia's most neuralgic and politically divided neighbour.

Putin bit back, taking a leaf out of the US street-protest playbook – even though, as in Kiev, the protests that spread from Crimea to eastern Ukraine evidently have mass support. But what had been a glorious cry for freedom in Kiev became infiltration and insatiable aggression in Sevastopol and Luhansk.

After Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, the bulk of the western media abandoned any hint of even-handed coverage. So Putin is now routinely compared to Hitler, while the role of the fascistic right on the streets and in the new Ukrainian regime has been airbrushed out of most reporting as Putinist propaganda.

So you don't hear much about the Ukrainian government's veneration of wartime Nazi collaborators and pogromists, or the arson attacks on the homes and offices of elected communist leaders, or the integration of the extreme Right Sector into the national guard, while the anti-semitism and white supremacism of the government's ultra-nationalists is assiduously played down, and false identifications of Russian special forces are relayed as fact.

The reality is that, after two decades of eastward Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west's attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit and defence structure, via an explicitly anti-Moscow EU association agreement. Its rejection led to the Maidan protests and the installation of an anti-Russian administration – rejected by half the country – that went on to sign the EU and International Monetary Fund agreements regardless.

No Russian government could have acquiesced in such a threat from territory that was at the heart of both Russia and the Soviet Union. Putin's absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive, and the red line now drawn: the east of Ukraine, at least, is not going to be swallowed up by Nato or the EU.

But the dangers are also multiplying. Ukraine has shown itself to be barely a functioning state: the former government was unable to clear Maidan, and the western-backed regime is "helpless" against the protests in the Soviet-nostalgic industrial east. For all the talk about the paramilitary "green men" (who turn out to be overwhelmingly Ukrainian), the rebellion also has strong social and democratic demands: who would argue against a referendum on autonomy and elected governors?

Meanwhile, the US and its European allies impose sanctions and dictate terms to Russia and its proteges in Kiev, encouraging the military crackdown on protesters after visits from Joe Biden and the CIA director, John Brennan. But by what right is the US involved at all, incorporating under its strategic umbrella a state that has never been a member of Nato, and whose last elected government came to power on a platform of explicit neutrality? It has none, of course – which is why the Ukraine crisis is seen in such a different light across most of the world. There may be few global takers for Putin's oligarchic conservatism and nationalism, but Russia's counterweight to US imperial expansion is welcomed, from China to Brazil.

In fact, one outcome of the crisis is likely to be a closer alliance between China and Russia, as the US continues its anti-Chinese "pivot" to Asia. And despite growing violence, the cost in lives of Russia's arms-length involvement in Ukraine has so far been minimal compared with any significant western intervention you care to think of for decades.

The risk of civil war is nevertheless growing, and with it the chances of outside powers being drawn into the conflict. Barack Obama has already sent token forces to eastern Europe and is under pressure, both from Republicans and Nato hawks such as Poland, to send many more. Both US and British troops are due to take part in Nato military exercises in Ukraine this summer.

The US and EU have already overplayed their hand in Ukraine. Neither Russia nor the western powers may want to intervene directly, and the Ukrainian prime minister's conjuring up of a third world war presumably isn't authorised by his Washington sponsors. But a century after 1914, the risk of unintended consequences should be obvious enough – as the threat of a return of big-power conflict grows. Pressure for a negotiated end to the crisis is essential.


German Media: 400 elite US commandos help Kiev in Ukraine

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About 400 elite commandos of a notorious US private security firm, Academi, are involved in a punitive operation mounted by Ukraine's new government against federalization supporters in eastern Ukraine, the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday.
According to the newspaper, Academi mercenaries participate in attacks against federalization supporters near Slavyansk. So far, it's unclear who hired them.

In April 29, Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) informed the Angela Merkel government about Academi commandos' involvement in Kiev's military operations in eastern Ukraine. Academi, former Blackwater (renamed in 2009), gained notoriety for killings of civilians in Iraq, arms smuggling and other crimes, TASS reports.

Media reports claiming that the Ukrainian leadership wants to recruit personnel from private foreign military companies "in order to maintain law and order" may suggest that the Kiev regime wants to suppress civil protest and discontent, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Private military company will be in charge of suppressing protest movements in Eastern Ukraine, said a source in the country's Security Service. According to him, the name of the company is Greystone Limited.

According to a source cited by ITAR-TASS, Ukrainian authorities believe that the Security Service is not able to suppress the protest mood and neutralize the leaders and activists of the pro-Russian movement in the eastern regions. In particular, the source said, the acting president Alexander Turchinov shares this opinion. "Therefore it was decided to attract foreign mercenaries, who will serve as political police and state security protection, " said the representative of the Security Service.

According to publicly available information Greystone Limited is a structural part of Blackwater, that was later renamed into Academi. According to military experts, the company is associated with the CIA and the US Defense Department. Its employees participated in the war in Afghanistan after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, the company has appeared in Iraq and became involved in training the new Iraqi armed forces and police, as well as support of the occupation forces.
Source: The Voice of Russia

The Fiscal Times: How Obama’s White House Lost Ukraine in a Few Stupid Steps

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No one wants to say so, but the Obama administration has backed the wrong horse in Ukraine, and the misguided wager is a big loss. It is hardly the president’s first failure on the foreign side, but it may prove the costliest of his many to date. For a while it was possible to pretend, just barely, that supporting the coup against Viktor Yanukovych, the elected president hounded into exile in February, would prove a sound judgment. Obama always came across as a welterweight in the ring with Vladimir Putin, simply not up to the Russian leader’s command of all available moves. But one could imagine Secretary of State Kerry clearing an exit corridor with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

For a while it looked as though the provisional government in Kiev might prove worthy of bailout funds from the U.S., the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund, despite the new regime’s legitimacy problems. Putin took (back) Crimea and prompted little more than impotent bleating, true. But there was hope that this new bunch could hold together what remained of the nation at least until the elections scheduled for May 25.

It is all by the boards now. Regardless of how you may construe these past six months in Ukraine, we have just watched a failed effort to wrest the nation straight out of Russia’s sphere of influence and insert it into the West’s. It is now easy to conclude that the second-term Obama White House has not one foreign policy success to its credit and none in prospect. (The first term looks little better, for that matter.)

Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Mideast, Syria, China, and probably Iran in coming months: Nothing ad hominem here, but figuratively speaking, the failure-prone Kerry has crashed more helicopters in the desert than Jimmy Carter ever ordered airborne. Success in Ukraine was never in the cards for this administration. But it slipped beyond all grasp late last week, when the provisionals ordered a military operation to quell dissent in the numerous eastern cities where pro–Russian sentiment tends to be strong. Touching and pathetic all at once, an account of the result is worth reading simply as a reality check.

There is no coming back when your soldiers and security forces not only refuse orders once in the east, but volunteer their ammunition, guns, tanks, artillery, and personnel carriers to the locals, saying they have no stomach for the mission. Readers may disagree, but I will never take the provisionals in Kiev as other than the opportunistic imposters I took them to be from the first. The first conclusion here: Kiev should get no money from anyone until a proper government is elected to office.  Next came the agreement Washington, the E.U., Moscow, and the provisionals negotiated in Geneva last Thursday. Instantly it appeared to make even less difference than the little it was first expected to. Washington immediately complained that Russia refused to call off its operatives in the east, who are supposedly to blame for all the unrest.

Three big problems here. Russia’s role is not completely clear, but when there are 40,000 Russian troops stationed around the Eastern perimeter of Ukraine, it gives insurgents a lot of confidence. It stretches credibility to suggest that the residents of eastern Ukraine are empty-headed such that Moscow has them all playing the same music without any thought of their own. Three, a firefight Sunday at a roadblock in the east almost certainly involved paramilitaries in support of the provisionals. Moscow asserted that they were from Right Sektor, the neo-fascists who rammed the provisionals into power three months back. It is a sad measure of Kiev’s credibility, but in any detached judgment the Russians’ account cannot be dismissed. If true, it took Kiev three days to breach the Geneva agreement.
 

Obama took an extraordinary step Saturday, and again there seems no turning back from it. As The New York Times reported, the president has just declared Cold War II, having concluded that there is no working with Putin even if a solution in Ukraine develops. The project is to “ignore the master of the Kremlin, minimize the disruption Putin can cause,” and “effectively make Russia a pariah state.” All of this is advanced as position-of-strength imagery and strategy. It can be read as such only by the gullible. Turn this around and Obama has just announced a pout that amounts to his surrender to a statesman who has boxed his ears in every round.
 

Apart from this, it is compounding error to bring back the confrontation at the Cold War’s core. Just as wrong is NATO’s new plan to push its presence as close to Russia’s frontiers as it can. Are we now watching the start of another generation of needless tension and division between Europe and its easterly neighbor? It is the obvious risk as of this past weekend, and it is already evident the economic costs will be formidable: wasteful military and security spending, redundant infrastructure in the hundreds of billions of dollars, opportunity costs that simply cannot be calculated.
 

Most immediately, Washington and the European allies ought to be reversing course and turning Ukraine into a field of cooperation with Russia by way of a commonly supported bailout devoid of geopolitical motivation. This kind of thinking is now antique idealism, of course—something to hang in a museum. A decade and a half into a new century and the place of foreign policy has already shifted. A good one is essential to any nation’s well-being in this new era. As things stand now, Ukraine is due to show us the damage a bad one can do.


Pentagon: Russian fighter intercepted US plane

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A Russian fighter jet intercepted an American reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the Pacific in late April, prompting top officials to complain to senior Russian military officials, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday. Army Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman, said the Russian Su-27 fighter flew across the nose of the U.S. Air Force RC-135U aircraft, coming within about 100 feet (30 meters), while in international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk.

Warren said the U.S. plane did not take any evasive measures. The Russian pilot maneuvered his jet in a way that exposed its belly to the American crew, he said, apparently as a way of showing that it was armed. Warren said there was no radio communication between the two planes' crews. He said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both raised the matter later with their Russian counterparts.

Warren said he could not explain why the incident, which happened April 23, was not made public earlier. It is the latest source of concern for U.S. officials since a heightening of U.S.-Russian tensions following Moscow's intervention in Ukraine. In mid-April a Russian Su-24 fighter made low-level passes over a U.S. Navy ship in the Black Sea.

An RC-135U is a highly specialized reconnaissance plane known as "Combat Sent." There are only two such planes in the U.S. Air Force; both are assigned to the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Their crews are from the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron and the 97th Intelligence Squadron of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency.

The "Combat Sent" aircraft are equipped with communications gear designed to locate and identify foreign military radar signals on land, at sea and in the air. The crew is composed of two pilots, one navigator, two airborne systems engineers, at least 10 electronic warfare officers and six or more technical and other specialists.


Russian Bombers Intercepted Near California

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U.S. fighter jets intercepted Russian bombers off Alaska and California this month, the latest incidents in a string of recent aerial encounters over the Pacific. On June 4, according to U.S. defense officials, four long-range Russian Tu-95 Bear-H bombers, accompanied by an aerial refueling tanker, flew into the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone, an area extending 200 miles from the North American coast, off Alaska, where they were intercepted by U.S. F-22 fighter jets.

Two of the Russian bombers peeled off and headed west, while the other two flew south and were identified by U.S. F-15 fighters within 50 miles of the California coast. Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said it was the first time U.S. jets had intercepted Russian military aircraft off California since July 4, 2012. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said it is believed the Russian planes were on a training mission. Davis said the Russian planes were entirely within their rights during the flight.

"They followed all the protocols, and it was a very professional encounter on both sides," he said. "There was nothing that they were doing that was contrary to international law."

The Russian planes never entered U.S. territory proper, which by international law extends 13.8 miles (22.2 kilometers) from the U.S. coast. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, any aircraft entering the Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends 200 miles from the coasts of the United States and Canada, must file a flight plan indicating their intentions, must maintain radio contact with air controllers and must have an operational radar transponder.

Davis said Russian flights into the air defense zone are intercepted about 10 times a year. But earlier this year, a top U.S. Air Force general said Russia was stepping up its military activities in the Asia-Pacific region as tensions increased over the Ukraine and Russia's move into Crimea. Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, in a presentation to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, talked up the increased Russian activity.

"They've come with their long-range aviation off the coast of California; they circumnavigated Guam," Carlisle said, showing a picture of a U.S. F-15 fighter "intercepting" a Russian bomber off the Pacific island.

Guam is home to Andersen Air Force Base, which has been used by the U.S. military for flights of B-2 and B-52 bombers across the Pacific. Flights around Japan and the Korean Peninsula have also "increased drastically," as has naval activity in that area, Carlisle said. The confrontations aren't just near U.S. airspace. In April, a U.S. Air Force surveillance plane was buzzed by a Russian jet fighter while flying over the Sea of Okhotsk between Russia and Japan, U.S. military officials said.

Describing the fly-by as "straight out of a movie," one U.S. official said a Russian Su-27 fighter jet flew within 100 feet of the nose of a U.S. Air Force RC-135U jet. The Russian aircraft turned and "showed its belly" to the U.S. crew so they could see it was armed with missiles, a U.S official said.

Also in April, U.S. defense officials say, a Russian fighter jet made a dozen low-altitude passes over the USS Donald Cook, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer that was operating in the Black Sea. On April 28, a Russian Defense Ministry statement said Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had discussed both incidents during a phone call that day.

In response, the statement said, Shoygu "offered to instruct the commanders in chief of the armed forces of both countries to discuss possible additional measures to address the interests of both countries to prevent future misperceptions of actions." On the other side of the world, F-16 fighter jets from the Netherlands intercepted two Russian bombers in April. The Russian planes, which had come about a half-mile into Dutch airspace, were escorted out and then monitored by British planes as they flew north of Scotland.

In a high-profile training mission of its own, the U.S. Air Force this week sent two of its top-of-the-line B-2 stealth bombers to an air base in Britain to conduct training operations. Three B-52 bombers were also sent from the U.S. on a two-week deployment to England, also for training purposes, according to an Air Force news release.


Russia launches Baltic drills alongside NATO Saber Strike war games

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The Baltic Sea and skies are getting crowded as Russia launches military training of its assault forces in the exclave of Kaliningrad in answer to the double war-games being conducted by joint NATO forces on the territory of the three Baltic States. NATO’s decision to conduct dual war games next to Russian borders in the Baltic has not been left unaddressed by Russia’s Defense Ministry, which prepared a surprise training of first strike forces – marines, paratroopers and long-range bombers - right in the backyard of the NATO military maneuvers. 

“We conduct military training simultaneously with the international war games that have started in Europe, Saber Strike-2014 and BALTOPS-2014,” said the ministry’s press service.


Defense Ministry noted that the military might engaged in training in the Kaliningrad Region is by all means comparable with the NATO’s forces concentrated on the nearby territory of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where Saber Strike-2014 is conducted on June 9-20 and sea-based BALTOPS-2014 training held in the Baltic on June 6-21. The Russian maneuvers involve the use of naval groups, marines, landing operations of airborne forces, air defense training and firing exercise of front-line aviation. 

“All-arms naval groups will maintain border and sea communication defense, and will perform training to search and destroy hypothetical aggressor’s submarines and combat ships,” the ministry commented to RBC news outlet.


The paratrooper division from Pskov will be training operational deployment to Kaliningrad, whereas marines will be training defending the coastal line from possible sea-borne landing and will also perform isolation and elimination of illegal armed groups. The Air Force is to provide fire support with Su-34 fighter-bombers and Mi-24 assault helicopters.

Deployment of supersonic Tu-22M3 long-range strategic maritime strike bombers, some of which have just the day before finished training in the Black Sea, has also been announced. Together with the air defense forces they will patrol the area to make sure the airspace of the training is securely sealed off.

 NATO’s training in the Baltic is an annual event yet this time the number of troops taking part has been augmented considerably. In 2013 there were 1,800 troops involved, while Saber Strike 2014 has become the largest-ever, with 4,700 troops and over 800 military vehicles, such as M2 Bradley, M1126 Stryker, and various APCs: XA-180, XA-202 and M113 taking part in the training.

Besides the two NATO war-games, the Baltic States are holding Baltic Host 2014 military cooperation training of their own near Riga.

Saber Strike 2014 has hosted troops from Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and the US. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already dubbed even the rotational military build-up near the Russian borders as an act of hostility directly violating the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, Lavrov’s First Deputy Vladimir Titov told Interfax. 

With the background of developments in Ukraine, the beef-up of NATO’s military presence near Russian borders, “just like during the 08.08.08 war in the North Caucasus, it rather creates additional problems instead of helping to solve them, Titov said. On Monday Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after meeting his Finnish counterpart Erkki Tuomioja that, “The artificial attempt to continue NATO's eastward expansion, progression of the military infrastructure to the east, closer to Russia's borders, is counterproductive.”


Politico: Why Russia No Longer Fears the West

 

The West is blinking in disbelief – Vladimir Putin just invaded Ukraine. German diplomats, French Eurocrats and American pundits are all stunned. Why has Russia chosen to gamble its trillion-dollar ties with the West? Western leaders are stunned because they haven’t realized Russia’s owners no longer respect Europeans the way they once did after the Cold War. Russia thinks the West is no longer a crusading alliance. Russia thinks the West is now all about the money.

Putin’s henchmen know this personally. Russia’s rulers have been buying up Europe for years. They have mansions and luxury flats from London’s West End to France’s Cote d’Azure. Their children are safe at British boarding and Swiss finishing schools. And their money is squirrelled away in Austrian banks and British tax havens.

Putin’s inner circle no longer fear the European establishment. They once imagined them all in MI6. Now they know better. They have seen firsthand how obsequious Western aristocrats and corporate tycoons suddenly turn when their billions come into play. They now view them as hypocrites—the same European elites who help them hide their fortunes.

Once Russia’s powerful listened when European embassies issued statements denouncing the baroque corruption of Russian state companies. But no more. Because they know full well it is European bankers, businessmen and lawyers who do the dirty work for them placing the proceeds of corruption in hideouts from the Dutch Antilles to the British Virgin Islands.

We are not talking big money. But very big money. None other than Putin’s Central Bank has estimated that two thirds of the $56 billion exiting Russia in 2012 might be traceable to illegal activities. Crimes like kickbacks, drug money or tax fraud. This is the money that posh English bankers are rolling out the red carpet for in London.

Behind European corruption, Russia sees American weakness. The Kremlin does not believe European countries – with the exception of Germany – are truly independent of the United States. They see them as client states that Washington could force now, as it once did in the Cold War, not to do such business with the Kremlin.

When Russia sees Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal outbidding each other to be Russia’s best business partner inside the EU (in return for no mention of human rights), they see America’s control over Europe slowly dissolving.

Back in Moscow, Russia hears American weakness out of Embassy Moscow. Once upon a time the Kremlin feared a foreign adventure might trigger Cold War economic sanctions where it hurts: export bans on key parts for its oil industry, even being cut out of its access to the Western banking sector. No more.

 
Russia sees an America distracted: Putin’s Ukrainian gambit was a shock to the U.S. foreign policy establishment. They prefer talking about China, or participating in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Russia sees an America vulnerable: in Afghanistan, in Syria and on Iran—a United States that desperately needs Russian support to continue shipping its supplies, host any peace conference or enforce its sanctions.

Moscow is not nervous. Russia’s elites have exposed themselves in a gigantic manner – everything they hold dear is now locked up in European properties and bank accounts. Theoretically, this makes them vulnerable. The EU could, with a sudden rush of money-laundering investigations and visa bans, cut them off from their wealth. But, time and time again, they have watched European governments balk at passing anything remotely similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which bars a handful of criminal-officials from entering the United States.

All this has made Putin confident, very confident – confident that European elites are more concerned about making money than standing up to him. The evidence is there. After Russia’s strike force reached the outskirts of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, in 2008, there were statements and bluster, but not a squeak about Russia’s billions. After Russia’s opposition were thrown into show trials, there were concerned letters from the European Union, but again silence about Russia’s billions.

The Kremlin thinks it knows Europe’s dirty secret now. The Kremlin thinks it has the European establishment down to a tee. The grim men who run Putin’s Russia see them like latter-day Soviet politicians. Back in the 1980s, the USSR talked about international Marxism but no longer believed it. Brussels today, Russia believes, talks about human rights but no longer believes in it. Europe is really run by an elite with the morality of the hedge fund: Make money at all costs and move it offshore.

Anti-American sentiment growing in Russia

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Anti-American sentiment here is growing as Russia responds to Western sanctions over Ukraine, and that is worrying expats and foreigners in this country. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial law this week making it a criminal offense to fail to report dual citizenship. It's a bid to keep track of potential foreign agents. Russian citizens who also hold a U.S. passport or one from another country have 60 days to notify the Federal Migration Service of their status or face a fine of nearly $6,000.

A survey published Thursday by the Levada Center, an independent pollster, shows that 71% of Russians view the United States "badly" or "very badly" — the highest in more than 20 years, with more positive attitudes registered during the Soviet era. While that hasn't translated into outright aggression, it is sparking some additional curiosity toward foreigners in the street.

"My husband ... recently had the experience of running into a man in a store who didn't like that our son was communicating in English," said Natalia Antonova, a Ukrainian-American journalist and playwright who lives in Moscow. The man, Antonova said, told them that their son "shouldn't be" bilingual. " 'Just teach him Russian. It's for the best.' The man wasn't aggressive or anything. He just explained that he's a patriot, and it's important to encourage patriotic feelings."

Russia has highlighted the political motive of the new law, pointing to potential "enemies." It comes after Russia annexed Ukraine's breakaway republic of Crimea in March, prompting sanctions from the U.S. against Russian officials and businessmen close to Putin.

"This is part of a policy in which (Russia) is trying to reduce foreign influence on its citizens," said sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya, head of Kryshtanovskaya Laboratory. The dual-citizenship law, she said, is directed primarily at the elites, many of whom keep their money and take their vacations abroad."

At least 74,000 people in Russia have a second passport, the country's migration service said last month. The new law — and the threat of a possible fine — has some Russian-Americans in Moscow fearful of what might come next.

"I have no idea how it could affect me in the future, with the very uncertain political situation at the moment, especially since my second citizenship is United States," said Maria Stambler, a Moscow-based copywriter who grew up in Warwick, R.I. "I love my country — Russia — and will stand by it no matter what," Stambler said. "But if things get even worse with the States, and I get in any kind of trouble or am forced to choose between the two countries, I really don't know what I would do."

Igor Vittel, a talk-show host with dual citizenship, said he is concerned about the new law. "In Russia's current reality, it could be used against people with difficult relations with the government," he said. Vittel still plans to register with authorities to avoid prosecution. "Why make yourself a target?"

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/06/06/putin-foreigners-russia/10003575/

Russia pushes BRICS nations to establish their own rating agency


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Standard & Poor's has downgraded Russia’s long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating from BBB to BBB-. According to the Russian authorities, the major rating agencies are influenced by the United States, and an alternative BRICS-based rating agency should be established. China has already expressed its interest in the project.

Assistance from China

Russia is to propose to its BRICS partners the establishment of a single common credit rating agency that will compete with the Big Three – Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch. That was the conclusion reached by participants of a meeting chaired by Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, after Standard & Poor's downgraded Russia’s long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating from BBB to BBB-.

"First of all, the case in question is the involvement of our traditional partners, such as the BRICS nations and the Eurasian Economic Union,” Konstantin Korishchenko, Head of the Department of Stock Markets and Financial Engineering at the Russian Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration, who attended the meeting, told RBTH.

“All the BRICS nations already have national rating structures, so it is primarily a matter of mutual recognition. Our foreign partners can help each other in terms of setting standards and oversight mechanisms, but most importantly in the mutual recognition of their ratings," said Korishchenko.

In particular, according to sources from the RBC-Daily newspaper, a new agency could be established based on a partnership between the Russian rating agency RusRating and the Chinese agency Dagong Global. The U.S. agency Egan-Jones Ratings, which has long dreamed of pushing back the Big Three, could help facilitate the process. Furthermore, Dagong Global has already held talks with RusRating in Beijing at a BRICS meeting: The company has proposed to start negotiations to establish a new international credit rating agency to be based in the BRICS nations.

According to Mikhail Kuzmin, an analyst at Investcafé, Dagong Global is represented today mainly domestically, although the agency does assign sovereign ratings to various countries. In turn, the U.S.’s Egan-Jones Ratings mainly assigns ratings to debt instruments including bond issues, bank loans, etc.

As noted by Vadim Vedernikov, Deputy Director of the Research and Risk Management Department at UFS IC, both agencies are known for their long-term activities on assigning ratings to corporate and sovereign issuers, as they operate in "hot" credit markets such as China and the United States. The project to set up a single common agency has already been called the Universal Credit Rating Group.

"The ratings which the Universal Credit Rating Group could start assigning to Russian companies could gain a degree of recognition in foreign investment circles approaching that of the ratings which have been assigned by the American Three,” says Vedernikov.

Alternative solutions

The other solution is to cooperate with ARC Ratings, the international consortium of agencies from Portugal, India, South Africa, Malaysia and Brazil.

"The cooperation of any other Russian agency with this agency could be a positive factor, as it would provide an alternative objective and an independent assessment of the ratings of Russian companies in addition to the ratings that would be assigned by the Universal Credit Rating Group,” says Vadim Vedernikov.

Experts also mention Japan Credit Rating Agency (Japan) and Dominion Bond Rating Service (Canada) as possible partners. According to Vedernikov, if such rating organizations were established in partnership with Russian agencies, they would be able to assign ratings to Russian companies. In this way, these ratings could be seen as more objective and, accordingly, could improve the perception of Russian issuers in the eyes of foreign investors.

The downgrade in Russia’s rating by S&P could seriously hit the Russian economy. According to Mikhail Kuzmin, "a downgrade in ratings is an indicator for investors from different countries of worsening economic conditions and increasing risks of investing in companies from the country in question."

Accordingly, the outflow of capital, which totaled $50.6 billion in the first quarter, may not decrease in the second quarter of 2014. Moreover, the cost of borrowing is likely to increase for Russia and any Russian company in foreign markets.

"In today's conditions, the question of whether the Russian financial infrastructure has its own national rating agencies is becoming increasingly timely. The rating agencies industry exists in Russia but needs to be developed," explains Konstantin Korishchenko.

According to Anton Soroko, an analyst at the FINAM investment holding, foreign rating agencies are legitimately drawing international attention to the growing risks of investing in the Russian economy, but they can also exaggerate a little. "Practically a monopoly has formed on the global stage in this segment. In this situation, the development of alternative appraisers will be a long-term benefit not only for Russia but also for the world as a whole," said the expert.



Egypt set to reject U.S. in favor of Russia

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The United States stands to lose its alliance with Egypt as Cairo turns to Russia for support, a development that would have major geo-political and strategic consequences, according to a team of national security experts who just returned from meeting with Egyptian officials. While less than half of Egypt’s armed forces’ hardware is Soviet-pattern weaponry, Egypt’s reliance on Moscow and other non-American suppliers may rapidly increase unless Washington lifts its current embargo on U.S. military aid and equipment.

Members of the Council Global Security and London Center for Policy Research were in Cairo April 15-18 to meet with Field Marshal Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, who could become the next president of Egypt when the country holds presidential elections May 26-27. The group also met with General of Intelligence Gen. Mohammed Farid el-Tohamy, Commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces and Minister of Defense Gen. Sedki Sobhy and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, along with other government officials, business leaders, religious clerics and members of civil society.

The group, led by Herb London, president of the London Center for Policy Research, was comprised of retired Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely; Judge Jeanine Pirro of Fox News; Judy Miller, formerly of the New York Times and now with the Manhattan Institute; Tera Dahl of the Council on Global Security; retired Gen. Robert Scales; and former British Ministry of Defense adviser Michael Kay. The group expressed particular concern about the lack of U.S. support for Egypt’s military, much of whose equipment is from the Soviet era.

This concern has been heightened by the recent visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Egypt seeking to extend Moscow’s influence through an offer of billions of dollars in military assistance. The U.S. had suspended some $1.3 billion in funding to the Egyptian military following the July 2013 ouster of democratically elected but Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi.

However, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries provided $12 billion and basically told the U.S. to keep its $1.3 billion in U.S. military assistance. The Arab monarchies opposed the Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian president and backed his ouster. The Saudis were especially upset with the U.S. when the Obama administration didn’t back the ouster of Morsi. To this day, the Obama administration opposes his ouster by the Egyptian military.

At the same time, the Russians offered to sell Egypt some $4 billion in jet fighters, anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, which would effectively give Russia greater influence not only in Egypt, which is the largest Arab country, but throughout the Arab world. The Egyptian revolution in 1952 by then-Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser, who later became president of Egypt, paved the way for major military assistance from the then-Soviet Union, whose equipment still is being serviced to this day by the Russians.

In an exclusive interview with WND after his return, Vallely said that in his discussions with el-Sisi, the presidential candidate told him that despite offers of Russian military assistance, the “door is not closed” for the U.S. to resume military assistance and maintain its influence in Egypt. However, el-Sisi said Egypt needs the equipment, along with spare parts for Apache helicopters the U.S. gave Egypt. Vallely said the helicopters are used for anti-terrorism operations which have been underway in the Sinai Peninsula against al-Qaida insurgents. Vallely said that el-Sisi told him that he was “not necessarily leaning toward Russia but added that he doesn’t “trust” the United States.

“Not one government in the Middle East trusts the U.S. government,” Vallely said. “Russia is kicking our a– all over the place.”

Vallely said, however, that el-Sisi wants to keep the “lines of communication open” with the U.S., but in the background he and other Egyptian officials are “pissed off” at the U.S. In an example of keeping open the channels of communications with the U.S., Vallely said that el-Tohmay, the Egyptian intelligence chief, stays in phone contact with U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan. Vallely added that if Egypt sides up ultimately with Russia, it will have profound geo-political and strategic implications for U.S. foreign policy, none of it good.

“The Russians are filling the vacuum left by the United States,” Vallely said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “knows that the U.S. is weak and will fill in where the U.S. leaves a vacuum,” he said. In its other observations, the group said that the ouster of Morsi in July 2013 was not a coup but a revolution. Morsi was elected to office in June 2012.

“Among those with whom the delegation met, there was compelling unanimity that the Muslim Brotherhood government had thoroughly betrayed the people’s expectations for democratic rule and were serving solely their own narrow interests,” the statement said.
 
“After ousting the Muslim Brotherhood from power after the largest protest movement in history, with 33 million Egyptians coming to the streets, a resounding 95 percent majority of the country ratified a new, more secular constitution,” it said.

The group said the any new president will be subject to this constitution rather than being able to “affect the constitutional process from his office, as Morsi did through an Islamist-dominated parliament.”

Since Morsi’s ouster, the interim government has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood. An Egyptian court recently sentenced some 683 Brotherhood members to death, including its leader, Mohamed Badie. Morsi still awaits a separate trial on charges of terrorism.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the group said, always has been committed to establishing exclusively Muslim regimes “which deny the rights of minorities, especially Jews and Christians, and is defined at its core by its hatred of America and the West.”

Source: http://mobile.wnd.com/2014/05/egypt-set-to-reject-u-s-in-favor-of-russia/

Gazprom deal boosts Russia-Egypt ties

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Russia’s relationship with Egypt appears to be warming, though it remains unclear just how far Moscow and Cairo are prepared to go and at what price. Officials in Washington should follow this closely.

Among the most recent developments is a small but significant natural gas export deal between Russia’s Gazprom and Egypt’s EGAS, under which Russia’s state-controlled gas firm will deliver seven shipments of gas to Egypt in 2015. An Egyptian press report on the deal stresses not only that EGAS obtained a “favorable rate” for the gas, but that the agreement will allow for “grace periods” to pay for it. Taking place in parallel with Gazprom’s dramatic price increases for its exports to Ukraine — and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that Kiev pay in advance — the modest sale looks overtly political. EGAS officials note that they turned to Gazprom after negotiations with an Algerian firm collapsed due to strong European Union interest in increasing imports from the country to reduce gas dependence on Russia. Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum appears to hope that this will allow the country to import Russian gas “at a rate that is lower than market prices” beyond 2015.

A bigger deal in the future is certainly possible; Moscow has a long history of below-market energy exports to its special friends, including its former Warsaw Pact allies — now paying market rates as NATO members — and, of course, Ukraine at various times. Of course, the Soviet Union took a similar approach to arms exports, which it often provided with long-term financing. In 1987, Soviet officials rescheduled some $3 billion in Egyptian debt for former Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser’s weapons imports during the 1960s. A later arrangement in 1994 reportedly settled all outstanding Egyptian debts.

Egypt’s gas purchase comes amid warm rhetoric from top officials on both sides, including Putin’s endorsement of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s presidential campaign earlier this year — in a meeting in Russia during Sisi’s first foreign trip after taking power — and a pointed statement by Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in Washington that Cairo will “seek to nurture and leverage” its ties to Moscow, while insisting that this would not come at America’s expense. Meanwhile, Egypt opted not to vote on a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling on all UN member states to refrain from recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea in an apparent effort to avoid US pressure to support the measure, which was implicitly critical of Moscow.

Both Russia and Egypt have put particular effort into intensifying their military-to-military contacts. Though reported talks on a $3 billion sale of advanced Russian aircraft financed by Saudi Arabia seems unlikely to come to fruition — in no small part because post-Soviet Russia has been much freer in distributing subsidized energy than subsidized weapons — there are other signs of interest. And whether or not a contract is signed, some of Russia’s media and its foreign policy establishment sound quite enthusiastic about a renewed arms relationship with Cairo. One example of this is a recent article on the deal in the pro-government Izvestia newspaper, which carried the headline “Russia plans to renew its military presence in Egypt” and prominently quoted an expert asserting that “Moscow is activating full-scale cooperation in the military-technical sphere with Egypt, trying to raise it to a level like the 1950s and 1960s.”

Setting aside this huge but uncertain arms sale, Russia and Egypt have reportedly agreed to conduct joint counterterrorism exercises involving Russian paratroopers (who likely played an important role in Moscow’s rapid seizure of Crimea) and may also be discussing a deal on spare parts for Egypt’s legacy Soviet equipment, something that seems considerably more plausible than a major agreement on MiG-35 fighters that would not integrate easily into Egypt’s existing air force.

Beyond this, the Izvestia report noted above also cited an agreement to train Egyptian officers at Russian military academies that was completed during Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s fall 2013 trip to Egypt. Russia’s Defense Ministry website is also publicizing an April 2014 meeting between Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov and Egypt’s Deputy Defense Minister, Muhammad Said al-Assar. (Curiously, Antonov is wearing the uniform of a four-star general — an impressive sight considering that he is a career diplomat and former deputy foreign minister who was seconded to the Defense Ministry, in part to handle arms control and missile defense talks with Washington.)

Perhaps more surprisingly in some respects, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website notes a recent meeting between a Russian deputy foreign minister who also serves as Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East and Egypt’s ambassador in Moscow. Since meetings in Moscow with Russia-based ambassadors are not always reported, the Foreign Ministry looks like it is trying to make a point. In addition to Egypt’s presidential election, regional concerns and mutual interests, the two are said to have discussed “some practical aspects in the further strengthening of Russia and Egypt’s traditionally friendly relations.”

Despite the obvious theater here — in both Moscow and Cairo — the Obama administration would be unwise to dismiss a Russia-Egypt rapprochement as implausible and should follow further moves closely. Russia has clear interests in Egypt that go well beyond tweaking the White House and some of them, like anti-terrorism cooperation targeting Islamist radicals, are much easier to pursue with Sisi than his immediate predecessor. Egypt can also benefit from the relationship, at a minimum by forcing the Obama administration to think twice as it makes foreign policy. Come to think of it, Americans might benefit from that, too.


Bulgaria's Western Allies Worry About Eastward Tilt

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Concerns are growing in some Western capitals that Bulgaria, for decades one of the Soviet bloc's most loyal members, could be falling back under Moscow's spell despite having been accepted years ago into Western alliances. Any eastward tilt in Sofia could undermine efforts by the European Union and the U.S. to present a united front to Russian President Vladimir Putin as Russia seeks to reassert its influence in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.

Bulgaria has been in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for a decade and the EU since 2007. Yet the Balkan nation, with its gold-domed Orthodox churches and communist-era architecture, still feels culturally and politically connected to Russia.

"Russia will always be close to the hearts of Bulgarians," said Yavor Simeonov, head of the governing Socialist party's youth wing. "Bulgaria has always been between Russia and Europe and it shouldn't have to choose. It can take a middle path."

In the past three months, steps by the coalition government have heightened concerns among European diplomats in Sofia and officials in Brussels. An April legislative package allowing Russia's natural-gas exporter Gazprom OGZPY -2.39% to circumvent EU competition regulations for the Bulgarian section of its South Stream pipeline drew warnings of possible penalties from the European Commission, which also noted Bulgaria's new law contained some of the exact same wording as the initial proposal from Gazprom.


While other former Warsaw Pact countries condemned Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March, the Socialist head of parliament's committee on relations with Russia, Mikhail Mirov, sent a letter of congratulations to the Russian parliament.

Although Sofia backed the first round of EU sanctions against Russia, Socialist lawmakers on parliament's foreign-affairs committee put forward a motion in May to oppose any more.
Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski has repeatedly voiced opposition to escalating the sanctions war against Russia, calling for a "balanced position" on the crisis, according to Bulgaria's state news agency.

"We are worried because we see expanding Russian influence in many sectors here," said one senior European diplomat in Sofia. "When it comes to sanctions, the Bulgarians are a potential weak spot for Europe which could be a problem."

Bulgaria, the EU's poorest member state, is potentially more vulnerable to the political fallout of the Ukraine crisis than other countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain. Staunchly pro-Western Poland is less hooked on Russian energy supplies, as is Romania, which joined the EU with Bulgaria in 2007. Both also drew a more independent path from Moscow during communist times.

The Baltic countries tend to see Moscow as a former occupier, whereas Sofia sees Moscow as a friend. Bulgaria's only oil refinery is controlled by Russia's Lukoil and its only nuclear plant runs on Russian fuel.

"Everyone is concentrating on Ukraine but the crisis also has the potential to push the soft disintegration of the EU," said Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, a Sofia-based think tank. "You have very divergent interests between Poles and Baltics, who feel very exposed, and Bulgaria which wants no shift and sees the European position toward Russia as unnecessarily hostile," he said.

Bulgaria's foreign and economy ministries didn't respond to requests for an interview. The governing Socialist party—a direct descendant of the communists who governed Bulgaria before the fall of the Berlin Wall—has repeatedly said it favors a European future, stressing that party leader Sergei Stanischev is also president of the Party of European Socialists. The Russian Embassy in Sofia didn't respond to calls for comment.

Bulgaria's government has sent pro-Western signals as well, going along with the initial sanctions and taking part in two U.S.-led naval exercises in the Black Sea since the Ukraine crisis erupted. Bulgaria has been on the rough end of Moscow's policy choices too: freezing along with Ukraine in 2009 when Russia cut natural-gas supplies after a price dispute.

Some Western officials suggested that the government's more pronounced pro-Russian rhetoric was related to elections this month for the European Parliament, which the ruling party cast as a referendum on its performance in government. If so, it is unclear what impact it had: The center-right opposition finished first with about 30% of the vote, well ahead of the Socialists with 19%.

Still, pollsters note that Russian propaganda—disseminated through Russian television channels and pro-Moscow newspapers—is increasingly resonating with Bulgarians. A poll this month by the U.S. firm Gallup found that the number of respondents who backed pro-Russian forces in Ukraine was almost the same as the number who supported the government in Kiev. A separate poll from Bulgarian pollster Alfa Research at the end of April found that while 40% of people supported the country's EU membership, 22% favored joining Moscow's nascent Customs Union.

"Right now Bulgaria is torn between these two realities. The EU hasn't brought the wealth many people hoped it would in recent years and many are nostalgic for the Soviet past," said Boryana Dimitrova, Alpha Research's director. "We've been called the Trojan horse of Russia in the EU because of its past and that could be true now."

Political analysts Moscow's economic footprint in Bulgaria has expanded—particularly in the energy and media sectors—in recent years while the EU was fixated on battling its sovereign debt crisis.

Russia is Bulgaria's second-biggest trade partner after Germany. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry has said that tough economic sanctions on Moscow would hit about 2,000 Bulgarian companies, employing about 80,000 people. For many Bulgarians, such links mean the country would be foolish to antagonize Moscow, and should try to bolster relations.

"We shouldn't forget everything we owe to Russia. I was in my 30s when the regime changed but since then I haven't seen any improvement," said Galya Ilieva, a 55-year-old trained engineer now working as a career for the elderly. "We suffered a great loss when we lost access to the Russian market. If we don't start rebuilding these ties we are going nowhere."

But other groups say the government should make its commitment to Europe more clear or it will be drawn into a permanent embrace with Russia

"In Bulgaria, many of us want to be European but everything is going wrong," said Magdalena Guenova, a 38-year-old information-technology manager. "I think Russian influence has always been very big but previously it was in the shadows. Now its on the surface."


Why Germans Love Russia

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Like most foreign-policy experts, I was shocked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its continuing “soft invasion” of eastern Ukraine. Can such a naked land grab really be happening now, in 21st-century Europe? But Russia’s actions were not the only surprise. If you have followed the German debate about the Ukraine crisis, you have witnessed another strange phenomenon: a parade of former politicians and public figures going on TV to make the case for Russia.

According to these august figures — including former Chancellors Gerhard Schröder and Helmut Schmidt — NATO and the European Union were the real aggressors, because they dared to expand into territory that belonged to Moscow’s legitimate sphere of interest. And it seems part of the German public agrees. You thought that Germans were the champions of international law and a rules-based world order? Think again.

There is a blatant hypocrisy here. At times the same people who had relied on international law to attack the American invasion of Iraq are now, as newborn realists, excusing Russia’s need to infringe on the sovereignty of other nations.

In point of fact, despite its trumped-up charges against Iraq, the Bush administration had at least 16 United Nations Security Council resolutions to support its case. Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, had zero. The only common denominator of both positions seems to be an underlying anti-Americanism.

Some of this pro-Moscow sentiment is the work of Russia-sponsored propaganda: A recent investigative report by the newspaper Welt am Sonntag revealed how a shady network of Russia supporters has shaped public discourse in Germany. Even dialogue forums with Russia, co-sponsored by the German government, are full of friends of Mr. Putin, even on the German side.

But there is also a disturbing undercurrent among ordinary Germans that harks back to old and unfortunate German traditions. We have come to think of Germany as a Western European country, but that is largely a product of Cold War alliances. Before then it occupied a precarious middle between east and west.

Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, German society may well be drifting away from the West again. In a poll last month by Infratest/dimap, 49 percent of Germans said they wanted their country to take a middle position between the West and Russia in the Ukraine crisis, and only 45 percent wanted to be firmly in the Western camp.

This anti-Westernism is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. There is the part of the left that is instinctively anti-American and takes the side of whatever international actor happens to challenge the status quo and the leading Western power.

Then there is Europe’s populist right, which agrees with Russia’s propaganda that Europe has become too gay, too tolerant, too permissive in its morals and too un-Christian, and which welcomes an authoritarian leader challenging Europe’s fuzzy multilateralism.

In Germany, you can find this current best represented by the new anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland Party. They take up a conservative strain of German thinking dating back to the 19th century, which harbors a resentment toward Western civilization and romanticizes a Russia seemingly uncorrupted by Western values and free-market capitalism.

Both versions of anti-Westernism have been around for decades; until now, though, they have been confined to the political fringes. These days they are accepted by parts of the elite and sections of the political center. That, combined with the enormous investment by German companies in Russia, is placing constraints on how aggressively the government of Angela Merkel, Germany’s strongly pro-Western chancellor, can act against Russia.

What unites the apologists on the left and right is a striking disregard for the fate of the people who inhabit the lands between Germany and Russia, and a truncated notion of German history.

Some apologists will explain their sympathy as a matter of debt to Russia for German atrocities during World War II. But it is important to remember that the war started with Germany invading Poland from the West — and a few days later the Soviet Union invading Poland from the East, after both sides had secretly agreed to split Eastern Europe between them.

And so when German public figures, parroting Russian propaganda, dismiss Ukraine as “not a real country anyway,” or treat countries at the fault line between the West and Russia as second-class nations with somewhat lesser sovereignty, they are evoking memories in Eastern Europe of the bad old days, when the Nazis and Soviets turned the region into the “Bloodlands” of their respective dictatorships.

For decades Germany has tried to come to terms with its fascist past and to learn important lessons from it. And now, in another country, there comes an authoritarian leader who is trying to stabilize his regime by pursuing aggression abroad on the grounds of ethnic nationalism.

For anyone who has grappled with Germany’s Nazi past, it should have been easy to call right from wrong in this case, instead of finding excuses for Russia’s actions. It’s a test that too many of my compatriots have failed.

To be fair, in a recent poll 60 percent of Germans said that their country should stand with the West in the Ukraine crisis. So Russia’s ongoing aggression is having some effect on public opinion. But that still means that nearly half of all Germans do not feel a deep connection with the West and its values — which is precisely what Mr. Putin wants.
 
Clemens Wergin is the foreign editor of the German newspaper group Die Welt and the author of the blog Flatworld.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/opinion/why-germans-love-russia.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=1

In Germany, Anti-American Sentiment Fuels Push to Tread Softly on Ukraine

Max Ebert, a 53-year-old local businessman, sees little difference between how Washington conducts foreign policy and the way Moscow does. "When America defends its interests, it is merciless," Mr. Ebert says, comparing Russia's intervention in Ukraine to U.S. actions in other countries. "Lives don't count."

Some German business leaders have been loud in urging Chancellor Angela Merkel not to support harsher sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. But polls and interviews underscore another factor putting pressure on Berlin to pursue a softer line: a populace that has grown so distrustful of the U.S. that it is skeptical of following Washington's lead in a geopolitical conflict.

Among Germans, "the overwhelming feeling in the Ukraine crisis is that for the Russians—but also for the Americans—it's about own interests and not the interests of the people in Ukraine," says one of Germany's top pollsters, Manfred Güllner of the Forsa Institute in Berlin.

A poll published by research firm infratest dimap last week indicates German trust in the U.S. has plummeted to lows not seen since the thick of the Iraq war. Another poll, published in May, showed those Germans surveyed were more interested in deepening their country's ties with China than they were in doing so with the U.S. A third, published in April, showed that nearly half wanted Germany to take a "middle position" in the Ukraine conflict rather than standing firmly on the side of the West.

German government officials readily acknowledge that anti-Americanism—fueled most recently by revelations of National Security Agency surveillance activities in Europe—plays a significant role in how the public perceives the Ukraine crisis and has bred a reluctance among many Germans to side with the U.S

Ms. Merkel, the most popular German leader in decades, is acutely attuned to public opinion, often pushing her fellow conservatives to shift to positions with broad popular support—such as a national minimum wage and Germany's phase-out of nuclear energy. Officials, though, say it is Berlin's basic conviction that constructive diplomacy is more effective than escalating tensions with additional sanctions that has driven German policy on Ukraine—not domestic political or business interests.

Still, the disillusionment with the U.S.—and the effect on German perceptions of the Ukraine crisis—is palpable even in Heidelberg, the picturesque southwest German city that, thanks to a large U.S. Army garrison established after World War II, became a symbol of Germany's postwar love affair with the U.S. Generations of Americans mingled and intermarried with the locals here, shared American movies and sports, and invited Germans onto the military grounds for an annual festival.

Dr. Fritz Hack, pictured in his home in Heidelberg on May 29. Dr. Hack marched in a pro-U.S. demonstration in 2003 to counter anti-Iraq-War protests in Heidelberg. Dr. Hack now refers to revelations of National Security Agency surveillance as "a great catastrophe."

The Army closed its former European headquarters here last year as part of a broader U.S. military plan to reduce its presence in Germany. The withdrawal left behind a debate over how Heidelberg should commemorate the U.S. role in its city history. More broadly, it is prompting locals to ponder how Germany should recast the trans-Atlantic alliance as Cold War memories fade.

"People don't want a pilgrimage-type memorial for G.I.s here," says Ursula Röper, chairman of neighborhood association in the part of town that was home to part of the 445-acre American base. "If we do anything along those lines, then we also need to include other aspects, including ones that Americans aren't going to be comfortable with."

Detlef Junker, founding director of the local university's Heidelberg Center for American Studies, has pushed to turn part of the former Army base into a research center dedicated to the U.S. military presence in Germany. He says the center is a tough sell—in part because of an "estrangement" between locals and the country that helped liberate them from the Nazis.

The rejection of U.S. militarism, he says, is now visible in the German response to the Ukraine crisis. Many here fear being drawn into a confrontation with Russia and want their government to take a softer line with Moscow than Washington has called for.

Ms. Merkel has publicly echoed U.S. threats of broader sanctions against Russia. But her government has also been sending more conciliatory messages—phoning the Kremlin more than any other Western capital, for instance—amid fears among the German public of an escalation in the conflict.

On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier traveled to St. Petersburg for a long-scheduled meeting, choosing to engage his Russian counterpart on his home turf rather than seeking to isolate the Kremlin. "Germans fear being pulled into a war," Mr. Junker says. In the view of many Germans, he adds, "Putin is simply the mirror image of the United States."

Students at Heidelberg's storied university say some of the loudest voices discussing Ukraine on their Facebook news feeds were ones alleging that fascist militias backed by the U.S. were behind "atrocities" against Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine. "The U.S. is seen as the warmonger" in the Ukraine crisis, said Maximilian Güttlein, 19. "That gets good traction among the students."

Surveys show that younger Germans—decades removed from the hot and cold wars that shaped the trans-Atlantic alliance—are most likely to question their country's ties to the U.S. A poll published last month by the Berlin-based Körber Stiftung found 40% of Germans aged 18 to 29 wanted to reduce their country's cooperation with the U.S., compared to 27% of Germans 60 and older.

Many Heidelberg residents do see the Ukraine crisis as a reminder of the importance of the alliance with the U.S. for Germany's security. But even those who have been traditionally pro-American have had their trust shaken by last year's revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance activities in Europe. The reports of the NSA's access to communications of ordinary citizens, along with those of the agency monitoring Ms. Merkel's cellphone, struck a chord in a country whose Nazi past and experiences with East German surveillance have made it acutely sensitive to privacy issues.

In 2003, when thousands protested the Iraq War outside the U.S. Army gates here, Fritz Hack marched in an American-flag-waving counter-demonstration. Dr. Hack, a cardiologist, had treated and befriended many Americans over his career in Heidelberg and felt a duty to show the U.S. still had German friends.

Today, the 75-year-old Dr. Hack still plants the Stars and Stripes in his driveway when expecting American guests. But he says he couldn't imagine joining a rally defending the U.S. from the NSA revelations. U.S. eavesdropping on Ms. Merkel's phone, he says, "was a great catastrophe."

"The Iraq War wasn't about trust—it was a political debate," says Lothar Binding, a member of the left-of-center Social Democrats who represents Heidelberg in the national parliament. "What the NSA did in this eavesdropping affair goes much deeper. It is the misuse of trust among friends."

Source: http://online.wsj.com/articles/in-germany-anti-american-sentiment-fuels-push-to-tread-softly-on-ukraine-1402443505

France's Le Pen says she admires Putin as much as Merkel

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Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front, said she admired Vladimir Putin as much as German Chancellor Angela Merkel because the Russian president did not allow other countries to impose decisions on him.

Le Pen's anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic party scored its first nationwide poll victory in European elections last week and has since said it is close to forming a political group in the European Parliament. In an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel, Le Pen said she had respect for leaders who defended their country's interests and added that Merkel's policies were good for Germany, though they would hurt others.

"I think (Putin) puts the interests of Russia and the Russian people first so in this regard I have the same amount of respect for him as for Ms Merkel," she said in the interview. "A lot of things are said about Russia because for years it has been demonised on U.S. orders. It should be one of the great characteristics of a European country to form its own opinion and not to see everything from the perspective of the U.S."

On Wednesday Le Pen's party struck a deal with four other Eurosceptic parties - Geert Wilders' Dutch Freedom Party, Italy's Northern League, Austria's Freedom Party and Belgium's Vlaams Belang party. To form a faction, parties must have at least 25-30 members elected in at least seven EU member states. Le Pen said she was optimistic the National Front could forge a bloc with other parties in the European Parliament.

"I've got a whole series of meetings soon," she said. Asked if she would like to work with the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP), she said: "It would be possible. We have the same fundamental position on Europe." UKIP leader Nigel Farage has, however, ruled out working with France's National Front. "They come from a different political family," he told the BBC in an interview. "We want nothing to do with that party at all." [ID:L6N0OI0AG]

On whether the National Front would work with the Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD), Le Pen said: "They have not expressed any such wish up until now. We share certain views with the AfD but it's a popular party - it's an elite one and it has a completely different structure."

Asked if she saw her party getting to the second round of a national presidential election in 2017, Le Pen said that was a "very credible hypothesis" and added that her party had at last as much potential among non-voters as among voters.

"I want to stop it getting fatter, continuing to breathe, touching everything with its paws and reaching into all areas of our legislation with its tentacles," she said, adding people were allowing their right to self-determination to be stolen. I believe that we'll get into power in the next ten years - perhaps more quickly than some people imagine," she said. Calling the 28-nation EU a "big disaster, an anti-democratic monster", she said she wanted to destroy the EU but not Europe.

She said Germany had become the Europe's economic powerhouse "because our leaders are weak" but said its neighbour should never forget that France was the "political heart" of Europe. She said a strong euro was ruining France and leaving the single currency bloc would represent "an incredible opportunity" for France, which she said was on the way to "underdevelopment".


Le Pen denied her party was xenophobic, saying she did not hate anyone but she added that France, where the number of unemployed rose to a record in April, could no longer afford immigration. She said France needed to save on its welfare system "which gives our citizens the same protection as illegal immigrants".

Source:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/01/us-france-lepen-idUSKBN0EC1ES20140601


Russia reemerges as great power through new union
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In 2014, Russia's first major foreign policy project since the breakup of the Soviet Union will take a decisive step toward realization: In the spring, a treaty on Eurasian Union (EAU) is due to be signed, with the union itself launched on January 1, 2015.  The Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, established in 2010 and upgraded in 2012 to a single economic space, is the platform for integrating much of ex-Soviet Eurasia into an economic, political and security unit.

Although the phrase Eurasian Union was first coined by Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev 20 years ago, it was Russian President Vladimir Putin who transformed the idea that had been in the air for some time into a viable political project. Putin drew conclusions from two fundamental facts which became apparent in the 2000s: the unwillingness of the West to embrace Russia as its own and an equal, and the malaise of Western capitalism, which was first felt in the US and which then led to a crisis in the EU.

Putin's answer to those developments was to recast Russia's international identity as both an independent power center, and a leader of a group of countries tied to it by a web of economic, political, and security arrangements, solidified by common historical heritage and shared civilizational trends.  As she was preparing a year ago to depart her job as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton called the Kremlin's EAU project an attempt to bring back the Soviet Union. Clinton was right in the sense that Russia has revealed its ambition to reconstitute itself as a large geopolitical unit with a global reach, and thus a competitor to US global power.

The EU leaders were brusquely awakened to this fact in November as Putin managed to prevent Ukraine signing an association agreement with the EU. To Putin, Ukrainians and Russians are "one people," sharing many common traits; thus, Ukraine's integration with the EU rather than Russia would be unnatural, even perverse. The Russian president is prepared to work hard and long to integrate the 46-million strong Ukraine into the EAU project. This, however, will be anything but easy.  The Ukrainian elite loathe coming back under Moscow's leadership, and Ukrainian nationalism, even in its moderate version, postulates that "Ukraine is not Russia," a view diametrically opposed to Putin's.

The EAU project is facing challenges of deepening as well as enlargement. Kazakhstan has made it clear that while it supports economic integration, it will seek to preserve its sovereignty and political independence. Even Belarus, whose population is not imbued with anything like Ukrainian-style nationalism, insists on a high degree of independence from Russia.  Yet, some enlargement and some consolidation within Eurasia will be taking place. Recently, Armenia has been put on a fast track to join the Eurasian integration project. Kyrgyzstan is habitually bargaining to get the best terms of accession. The Eurasian Commission, headed by Viktor Khristenko, a former Russian deputy prime minister, is sure to get wider powers.

Since all prospective EAU members and candidates also belong to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), there is likely to be more coordination between the EAU and the CSTO. The Russian language as the lingua franca in central Eurasia will get a boost with more cooperation among the integrating countries. The EAU will doubtlessly increase Russia's standing as regards the EU, making the relationship more coequal. It will also strengthen Russia's position in Central Asia, including versus China, as well as in the South Caucasus.

These gains, however, will be less than groundbreaking, unless the Russian Federation itself manages to relaunch its economy on a basis other than oil and gas, improves the quality of its population, beginning with the elites, and dramatically upgrades its governance. For Russia to be a great power in the 21st century, it does not require more land, more people, or more allies. It needs to manage much better what it already has.

The author is director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and editor-in-chief of its blog, Eurasia Outlook. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Kevin Barrett: Putin puts fear of God in New World Order

Russian President Putin

In the wake of Crimea's independence referendum, Hillary Clinton says Russian President Putin is a "new Hitler."  Zbigniew Brezezinski, former National Security Advisor agrees, calling Putin not just another Hitler, but also a thug, a menace, a Mafia gangster, and a Mussolini. The Western mainstream media echoes this childish name-calling.
 
Why is the whole Western foreign policy establishment so afraid of Putin?
 
Because Putin is standing up against Western aggression – not only in Ukraine, but also in Syria and Iran. Ongoing Western attempts to destabilize these and other countries are just the most recent examples of a decades-old pattern of aggression. The long-term goal: Total destruction of traditional nations and values, and the creation of a New World Order global dictatorship.
 
Since the 1953 CIA-MI6 coup in Iran, the West has been using the same formula to overthrow legitimate but uncooperative leaders:  First, sabotage the country's economy. Then bribe corrupt military officers and thugs and pay rent-a-mobs to create chaos in the streets. Next (this step is optional) incite violence by paying snipers to fire into crowds – and maybe set off some bombs. Finally, send the corrupt military units and gangsters to overthrow the target nation's legitimate leader, murder or imprison his supporters, install a Western puppet in his place – and announce that "order has been restored."
 
The CIA did it to Iran's democratically-elected Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953, to Indonesia's President Sukarno in 1965, and to Chile's Prime Minister Allende on September 11th, 1973. They did the same thing to Ukraine's legitimate president, Viktor Yanukovych, a few weeks ago. Neocon regime-change apparatchik Victoria Nuland (The assistant US secretary of state,) got caught admitting that the US had spent five billion dollars to overthrow Ukraine's democratically-elected government; and EU Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton was heard on tape discussing the "news" that the Maidan Square snipers were part of the US-sponsored coup.
 
The people of Ukraine should be worried. US-sponsored coups can turn very bloody very quickly.
 
The CIA's 1965 Indonesia coup was one of the biggest holocausts in history. According to Princeton history professor Bradley Simpson, as cited by the Jakarta Globe: "The US and British governments did everything in their power to ensure that the Indonesian army would carry out the mass killings" of more than one million people following the coup against Sukarno. Most of the victims were tortured before they were murdered. The list of names of people to be tortured and murdered was provided by the CIA to their hired Indonesian thugs. While this was going on, five-year-old Barrack Obama was living in Indonesia with his stepfather Lolo Soetoro, who was working for the American mass murderers.
 
That's right: Obama's stepfather was a holocaust perpetrator.
 
In 1971, following the CIA's coup in Chile, the American stooge Pinochet murdered 3,000 people and tortured 30,000. These actions were fully supported by Pinochet's American sponsors, who trained and paid the thugs and torturers. The hecatomb in Syria, too, is best understood as yet another US-sponsored coup attempt.
 
The NWO-driven Americans and their Western allies have killed tens of millions in these coups, interventions, destabilization campaigns, and undeclared wars. According to André Vltchek and Noam Chomsky's book On Western Terrorism, the total number killed is over 50 million since World War  II. If we add to this the number of people tortured, brutalized, falsely imprisoned, forced to become refugees, or who had their lives ruined by Western terrorism, the number of victims reaches the hundreds of millions.
 
Today, the American terrorists and their NATO allies seem less interested in installing puppet governments than in reducing entire nations to chaos. The CIA-NATO coup against Gaddafi has destroyed Libya as a modern nation-state. Western-backed false-flag terror in Iraq is splitting up that country. Syria is being decimated by a Western-backed attempt to overthrow Assad. Venezuela, too, is being destabilized by a CIA-backed coup effort.
 
In short, the New World Order – a shadowy group of global banking oligarchs bent on establishing a one-world dictatorship – is trying to overthrow every leader on earth who resists. Russian President Putin is resisting. That is why the Western propaganda machine is calling him names. It is worth noting that Russia and Iran – the two nations most successfully resisting NWO regime change – are doing so in the name of God.
 
According to Catholic intellectual E. Michael Jones, the 1979 Iranian Revolution was the opening salvo of a global backlash against secularism's destruction of traditional values. Like the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan (driven by Americans' disgust with the so-called sexual revolution) and the rise of Poland's Solidarity movement (which opposed communist atheism), the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran was a landmark event signaling an end to the 20th-century wave of militant secularism and atheism – and a revival of traditional religion.
 
President Putin enjoys overwhelming popularity in Russia due to his defense of traditional religious values. In his State of the Nation address last December, Putin said: "Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values… Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan."
 
Putin's reference to Satanism was a pointed rebuke to the New World Order elites, who – though they push militant secularism on the societies they are trying to undermine – are closet Satanists. Anyone who doubts this should run the name "Lt. Col. Michael Aquino" through a search engine. Aquino, an avowed Satanist and credibly-accused mass child abuser, was rewarded for his crimes against children with an appointment as Chief of Psychological Warfare for the US military. (For background on the satanic international banking elite, and its near-total control of Western institutions, read Nick Bryant's book The Franklin Scandal alongside the work of Canadian scholar Henry Makow.)
 
The shock troops of the NWO's war against religion and tradition (and Russia and Iran) are the neoconservatives. Operation Gladio terrorist Michael Ledeen explains: "Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace ... We must destroy them to advance our historic mission."
 
Putin is stopping New World Order "creative destruction" in Syria and Ukraine. He is part of a growing coalition opposing the NWO – not just religious traditionalists, but also progressive anti-globalization forces, including Hugo Chavez inspired anti-imperialists in Latin America. We are facing an epic struggle between those who espouse sacred values such as justice and decency versus those who wish to destroy all values.

God bless President Putin, who is putting the fear of God into the New World Order.

Source: http://presstv.com/detail/2014/03/19/355259/putin-puts-fear-of-god-in-nwo/

The world has nothing to fear from the US losing power

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As China looks set to overtake the US as the world's largest economy, a multipolar world can only be good for democracy

The news that China will displace the US as the world's largest economy this year is big news. For economists who follow these measurements, the tectonic shift likely occurred a few years ago. But now the World Bank is making it official, so journalists and others who opine on world affairs will have to take this into account. And if they do so, they will find that this is a very big deal indeed.

What does it mean? First, the technicalities: the comparison is made on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, which means that it takes into account the differing prices in the two countries. So, if a dollar is worth 6.3 renminbi today on the foreign exchange market, it may be that 6.3 renminbi can buy a lot more in China than one dollar can buy in the US. The PPP comparison adjusts for that; that is why China's economy is much bigger than the measure that you have most commonly seen in the media, which simply converts China's GDP to dollars at the official exchange rate.

The PPP measure is a better comparison for many purposes. For example, take military spending: the money that China needs to build a fighter jet or pay military personnel is a lot less than the equivalent in dollars that the US has to pay for the same goods and services. This means that China has a bigger economy than that of the US, for purposes of military spending. And in a decade, the Chinese economy will most likely be about 60 percent bigger than the US economy.

President Obama has just returned from a trip to Asia where he was criticised for not being tougher with China. However, Americans may want to consider whether "containing" China with a "pivot" to Asia is an affordable proposition. When the US had an arms race with the Soviet Union, the Soviet economy was maybe one-quarter the size of ours. We have not experienced an arms race with a country whose economy is bigger than ours, and whose economic size advantage is growing rapidly. Are Americans prepared to give up social security or Medicare in order to maintain US military supremacy in Asia? To ask this question is to answer it.

Fortunately, such an arms race is not necessary. China is a rising power, but the government does not seem to be interested in building an empire. Unlike the US, which has hundreds of military bases throughout the globe, China doesn't have any. The Chinese government seems to be very focused on economic growth; trying to become a developed country as soon as it can. Since China has 1.3 billion people, having an economy the size of the US means that average living standards are less than one-fourth of ours. They have a long way to go to become a rich country.

Of course, just because an arms race is unnecessary or unwinnable doesn't mean it can't get started. The Washington foreign policy establishment is much accustomed to the authority, prestige, and privilege of being the overwhelmingly dominant power on the planet. And as we saw during the eastward expansion of Nato in the 1990s – now coming back to haunt us in a new cold war with Russia – there are politically powerful military contractors that can also have a voice in US foreign and military policy.

The American people, according to polling data, are of another point of view. They are largely tired of unnecessary wars and mostly sympathetic to Obama's response to critics while in the Philippines: "Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force, after we've just gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and to our budget?" It is arguable that the only reason our government is able to maintain an imperial foreign policy is that so few Americans serve in the military and pay the ultimate price for it.

Still, there is a powerful ideology of American exceptionalism and a widespread belief that if the US does not run the world, somebody worse – possibly China – will. The fact that the US and its European allies still have more democratic societies with more developed rule of law than most middle-income countries – despite the setbacks of the past decade – reinforces this notion that the world will be worse off if the US loses power and influence.

But the US lost most of its influence in Latin America over the past 15 years, and the region has done quite well, with a sharp reduction in poverty for the first time in decades. The Washington-based International Monetary Fund has also lost most of its influence over the middle-income countries of the world, and these have also done remarkably better in the 2000s.

In the 18th century, those who opposed democratic revolutions like that of the United States had dystopian visions of governance without monarchy. So, too, our foreign policy establishment cannot imagine a multipolar world where the US and its allies must negotiate more and give orders less often. But economic trends are making this reality inevitable, and Americans should embrace it. Whatever the internal political systems of the countries whose representation in the international arena will increase, the end result is likely to be more democratic governance at the international level, with a greater rule of international law, fewer wars, and more social and economic progress.

Russia says won’t tolerate ‘outside interference’ in friendly countries

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Russia will prevent any aggressive intervention in the internal affairs of friendly countries made “under the pretext of planting ideas alien to our minds and hearts”. This was stated by Russian Ambassador to Armenia Ivan Volynkin during the Seventh Forum of Russian compatriots in Armenia on April 12.

Armenia has still not officially protested against this statement by the Russian diplomat. But in the media there have been some articles describing it as “diplomatic nonsense” and a bid for total control of “hearts and minds” in Armenia.

 

The relations between Armenia and Russia increasingly appear to be contradictory: on the official level the two sides state about their fraternal friendship, loyalty for all times to come, about Armenia’s intentions to integrate into the pro-Russian Eurasian space. And on the “second level” the entire spectrum of conflict of interests and intentions of Armenia and Russia is manifested.
 

Yerevan openly states that the proposed terms of entry into the Russian-led Customs Union are not profitable to Armenia and it is negotiating with Moscow on privileges. However, judging by some information appearing in media, Russia is not going to give privileges to Armenians. Recently Moscow effectively refused to make an exception for Armenians in their immigration legislation that tightens the terms of stay of migrant workers and easier terms will be applied along with Armenia’s integration into the Russian-led bloc. According to the local media, Armenia cannot get customs privileges for 900 items of goods either. Duties on these goods will be increased two- or threefold after Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union.
 

Add to this the imperial rhetoric of Russia politicians, diplomats, pro-Kremlin journalists, who literally state that Armenia can live only on condition of its subordination to Russia. This rhetoric causes rejection in public and political circles of Armenia, even though it is not manifested in actions of protest. Observers say, however, that internal murmur is on the rise.
 

The Russian leadership does not hide any longer its intentions to completely absorb Armenia. One of the instruments of this absorption may become the new Russian law simplifying the granting of Russian passports to Russian-speaking citizens of other states. As a condition for receiving a passport within three months the Russians mention the renunciation of original citizenship. In Armenia there is already concern that migrant workers in Russia will start giving up Armenian citizenship and acquiring Russian citizenship en masse. There is the same concern in relation to the Armenian-populated Georgian region of Javakhk where Russia is also going to hand out passports.
 

This will give Russia an additional argument in its relations with Armenia and Georgia. The Kremlin has proclaimed a policy of protecting Russian citizens around the world, and under this pretext, two months ago Russia, in fact, annexed Ukraine’s Crimea. Distribution of passports may become grounds for, as the Russian ambassador says, “preventing any aggressive intervention in the internal affairs of friendly countries.” This could apply to both Armenia and Georgia.


US-NATO Encirclement of Russia


Stalin was certainly a tyrant: But U.S. warmongers have also been hyping the Russian threat with self-serving lies – and committing atrocities and telling lies – for some 70 years.  As an American, my concern is keeping America from destroying itself.  And – unless we learn our history – we could get in a lot of trouble.

America Launched the Cold War Even Before World War II Had Ended


Joseph Stalin and the Soviets were key in helping the U.S. to defeat the Nazis.  20 million Russians died fighting the Nazis in World War II. And yet the U.S. started competing against Stalin – and treating him like an enemy – before WWII had even ended. Specifically, dropping atomic bombs on Japan had a dual purpose: defeating the Japanese, and sending a message to Stalin that the U.S. was in charge. History.com notes:

In the years since the two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, a number of historians have suggested that the weapons had a two-pronged objective …. It has been suggested that the second objective was to demonstrate the new weapon of mass destruction to the Soviet Union. By August 1945, relations between the Soviet Union and the United States had deteriorated badly. The Potsdam Conference between U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Russian leader Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill (before being replaced by Clement Attlee) ended just four days before the bombing of Hiroshima. The meeting was marked by recriminations and suspicion between the Americans and Soviets. Russian armies were occupying most of Eastern Europe. Truman and many of his advisers hoped that the U.S. atomic monopoly might offer diplomatic leverage with the Soviets. In this fashion, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan can be seen as the first shot of the Cold War.

New Scientist reports:

The US decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was meant to kick-start the Cold War rather than end the Second World War, according to two nuclear historians who say they have new evidence backing the controversial theory. Causing a fission reaction in several kilograms of uranium and plutonium and killing over 200,000 people 60 years ago was done more to impress the Soviet Union than to cow Japan, they say. And the US President who took the decision, Harry Truman, was culpable, they add.
***
[The conventional explanation of using the bombs to end the war and save lives] is disputed by Kuznick and Mark Selden, a historian from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, US.
***
New studies of the US, Japanese and Soviet diplomatic archives suggest that Truman’s main motive was to limit Soviet expansion in Asia, Kuznick claims. Japan surrendered because the Soviet Union began an invasion a few days after the Hiroshima bombing, not because of the atomic bombs themselves, he says. According to an account by Walter Brown, assistant to then-US secretary of state James Byrnes, Truman agreed at a meeting three days before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima that Japan was “looking for peace”. Truman was told by his army generals, Douglas Macarthur and Dwight Eisenhower, and his naval chief of staff, William Leahy, that there was no military need to use the bomb. “Impressing Russia was more important than ending the war in Japan,” says Selden.

John Pilger points out:

The US secretary of war, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was “fearful” that the US air force would have Japan so “bombed out” that the new weapon would not be able “to show its strength”. He later admitted that “no effort was made, and none was seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the bomb”. His foreign policy colleagues were eager “to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip”. General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project that made the bomb, testified: “There was never any illusion on my part that Russia was our enemy, and that the project was conducted on that basis.”

University of Maryland professor of political economy – and former Legislative Director in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and Special Assistant in the Department of State – Gar Alperovitz says:

Increasing numbers of historians now recognize the United States did not need to use the atomic bomb to end the war against Japan in 1945. Moreover, this essential judgment was expressed by the vast majority of top American military leaders in all three services in the years after the war ended: Army, Navy and Army Air Force. Nor was this the judgment of “liberals,” as is sometimes thought today. In fact, leading conservatives were far more outspoken in challenging the decision as unjustified and immoral than American liberals in the years following World War II.
***
Instead [of allowing other options to end the war, such as letting the Soviets attack Japan with ground forces], the United States rushed to use two atomic bombs at almost exactly the time that an August 8 Soviet attack had originally been scheduled: Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. The timing itself has obviously raised questions among many historians. The available evidence, though not conclusive, strongly suggests that the atomic bombs may well have been used in part because American leaders “preferred”—as Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Martin Sherwin has put it—to end the war with the bombs rather than the Soviet attack. Impressing the Soviets during the early diplomatic sparring that ultimately became the Cold War also appears likely to have been a significant factor.
***
The most illuminating perspective, however, comes from top World War II American military leaders. The conventional wisdom that the atomic bomb saved a million lives is so widespread that … most Americans haven’t paused to ponder something rather striking to anyone seriously concerned with the issue: Not only did most top U.S. military leaders think the bombings were unnecessary and unjustified, many were morally offended by what they regarded as the unnecessary destruction of Japanese cities and what were essentially noncombat populations. Moreover, they spoke about it quite openly and publicly.
***
Shortly before his death General George C. Marshall quietly defended the decision, but for the most part he is on record as repeatedly saying that it was not a military decision, but rather a political one.

General Dwight Eisenhower said, “Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary” and “the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” And Truman’s chief of staff, Admiral William Leahy, who chaired the meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, claims:

The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

America Has Waged a Brutal Dirty Tricks Campaign for 70 Years


Right after the end of WWII, the U.S. http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/05/america-backed-fascists-ukraine-73-years-ago.html in an attempt to dislodge Soviet control of that country.
 
Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States:

In late September 1947, [George] Kennan urged Forrestal to establish a “guerrilla warfare corps”—a suggestion Forrestal heartily endorsed—although the [Joing Chiefs of Staff] recommended against establishing a “separate guerrilla warfare and corps.” In December, Truman approved secret annex NSC 4-A, authorizing the CIA to conduct covert operations. He had dismantled the OSS’s covert parmilitary operations capabilities in September 1945, but now he brought them back in force. In the summer of 1948, he approved NSC 10/2, which called for “propaganda, economic warfare, preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.” These activities were to be done in a way that would always afford the US government plausible deniability. In August 1948, Truman approved NSC 20, which authorized guerrilla operations in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe ….
***
Beginning with Truman’s first day in office, his receptiveness to the views of hard-line anti-Communists, his denial of Roosevelt’s understanding with Staling, the provocative and unnecessary dropping of the atomic bombs, his spreading a network of military bases around the world, Churchill’s speech at Fulton, Truman’s call for fighting Communism in greece, the division and remilitarization of Germany, the continued testing of bigger and bigger atomic and hydrogen bombs which he used to threaten the Soviet Union, Truman’s deliberate exaggerations of the Communist threat both overseas and at home and his persecution and silencing of those who challenged these distortions. In all these matters, with few exceptions, the United states, after successfully liberating Western Europe, was now signaling fear and aggression ….

The U.S. also admits that the U.S. and NATO also used false flag terror attacks to discredit the Soviets. For example:

  • The CIA admits that it hired Iranians in the 1950′s to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran in order to turn the country against its democratically-elected prime minister


  • As admitted by the U.S. government, recently declassified documents show that in the 1960′s, the American Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on a plan to blow up AMERICAN airplanes (using an elaborate plan involving the switching of airplanes), and also to commit terrorist acts on American soil, and then to blame it on the Cubans in order to justify an invasion of Cuba. See the following ABC news report; the official documents; and watch this interview with the former Washington Investigative Producer for ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.

The U.S. and NATO Have Been Trying to Encircle Russia Militarily Since 1991


President George H. W. Bush promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that – if the Soviets broke up the Soviet Union and dissolved the Warsaw Pact – then NATO would not move into those former Soviet countries. This assured the Soviets that NATO would not encircle Russia.

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Similarly, Germany promised Gorbachev that NATO would not expand “one inch to the east.”  As Andrew Gavin Marshall explains:

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 prompted the negotiated withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe. The ‘old order’ of Europe was at an end, and a new one “needed to be established quickly,” noted Mary Elise Sarotte in the New York Times. This ‘new order’ was to begin with “the rapid reunification of Germany.” Negotiations took place in 1990 between Soviet president Gorbachev, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and President Bush’s Secretary of State, James A. Baker 3rd. The negotiations sought to have the Soviets remove their 380,000 troops from East Germany. In return, both James Baker and Helmut Kohl promised Gorbachev that the Western military alliance of NATO would not expand eastwards. West Germany’s foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, promised Gorbachev that, ” NATO will not expand itself to the East.” Gorbachev agreed, though asked – and did not receive – the promise in writing, remaining a “gentlemen’s agreement.”

But Bill Clinton broke America’s promise, and the U.S. has pursued a campaign of encircling Russia ever since: And NATO has also broken its promise, and now largely encircles Russia. 

Source: US-NATO Encirclement of Russia: America Launched the Cold War Before the End of World War II 

 The Americans’ Fear of Islamic Terrorists Has Worn Off, So the Government Pulls Out the EVIL RUSSIAN Card Again

New Ooga Booga No Longer Effective … So Government Switches Back to Tried-And-True Old-Timey Ooga-Booga


Preface: I’m not siding with Putin on the Ukrainian dispute. I don’t like Communism. I was born in the U.S. and have lived here all of my life.  I hate Stalin with a passion – a man who killed countless protesters, and sent numerous others away to insane asylums – and have railed against the “useful idiots” who naively supported the Soviets. I also think that Putin is a corrupt kleptocrat.  I’m just pointing out that the U.S. Government is completely overreacting and fear-mongering. This is taking place on the other side of the world, and doesn’t effect America’s national security (although we may have heavily invested in the outcome). 

Fear of terrorists made the American public afraid, gullible and easy to manipulate for more than a decade. But now – despite the best efforts of the military-industrial complex to  intentionally whip up an exaggerated hysteria of Islamic terrorists -  Americans are starting to wake up from our fear-induced haze:


Indeed, Americans are realizing that we’re more likely to be killed by lightning, toddlers, brain-eating parasites or bad government policy than terrorism. So how can the poor lads in the military industrial complex keep the gravy train going? The evil Russians!  That worked last time … it’ll work again! All they have to do is re-demonize the Russians.  How long can it take to scrub the images of the peaceful Olympics – and Putin’s prevention of war against Syria – out of people’s minds, and re-instill the fear of the old Red Menace? After all, in the 1970s, Cheney and Rummy generated fake intelligence exaggerating the Soviet threat in order to undermine coexistence between the U.S. and Soviet Union, which conveniently justified huge amounts of cold war spending.  And see this. That worked like a charm! Surely, a few misrepresentations about Putin’s intention to start the next world war and take over the world will scare the daylights out of the American people! Ahhh, the sweet smell of success

Source: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/03/american-people-longer-buying-terror-threat-government-pulls-evil-russian-card.html

West ponders how to stop - or fight - a new Great War

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After more than a decade focused on combating Islamist militancy, Western military planners are once again contemplating potential war between major powers - and how to prevent one happening by accident. Although the Cold War rivalry with Moscow has never been forgotten, current and former Western officials say Russia's annexation of Crimea has NATO powers tearing up strategic assumptions and grimly considering both conventional and nuclear fights.

As late as March, most NATO powers - with the exception of eastern members such as the Baltic States long worried by Moscow - had assumed Europe itself faced no imminent military threat. It is still the case that few believe Russia would attack any NATO state, but, in order to deter, Western officials say they must consider and plan for the contingency.

The threat to U.S. allies in the Pacific from a stronger China has also focused military minds on how to contain the risks there, and ensure any localized conflict does not spill over into global war.

In a major foreign policy speech at the West Point military academy last month, President Barack Obama spoke mostly on counterterrorism and the Afghanistan withdrawal. But while he said the risk from other nations was now much lower than before the Berlin Wall fell, he made clear it still existed.

"Regional aggression that goes unchecked, whether in southern Ukraine or the South China Sea or anywhere else in the world, will ultimately impact our allies and could draw in our military," he told graduating cadets.

Tensions with Moscow and Beijing have increased faster than almost anyone in government in Washington expected. They are expected to dominate a meeting between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day later this week. Last weekend's annual Shangri-La Dialogue strategic conference in Singapore, meanwhile, showcased the growing gulf between Washington and Beijing on issues from regional maritime disputes to cyber security.

In recent weeks, current and former officials say, the Obama administration has been insistently reassuring allies and signaling foes where Washington's true red lines are. Washington might not be prepared to act militarily in Ukraine but an attack on a NATO state such as one of the Baltics or a formal Asian ally like Japan, the Philippines or Australia would commit it irrevocably to war. Those treaty obligations are not new, but U.S. officials say it is important to make clear that they are taken extremely seriously. They hope that will reduce the risk of an accidental war where a state takes action wrongly assuming other powers will not respond.

"It's not that the leadership in Russia or China is looking for a war - and the United States certainly isn't," says Kathleen Hicks, a U.S. undersecretary for defense until last July who now works for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

One hundred years after the start of World War One, books on the period have become increasingly popular in Washington, Whitehall and NATO headquarters in Brussels, current and former officials say, and not purely for their historical interest. In June 1914, the killing of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serb nationalist triggered actions and alliances that brought war in barely a month.

Now, experts say flashpoints could range from a clash over disputed South China Sea islands or ethnic strife in Russia's former Soviet neighbors to a wrongly attributed cyber attack. Even as Washington reassures allies, Moscow and Beijing have asserted their might against Ukraine and Vietnam which lack such formal alliances. The risk, experts say, is that they become overconfident and misjudge.

"The parallels with 1914 can definitely be overstated," said Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. "But they do show us that war can start through unintended consequences and an economically interdependent world does not necessarily stop it from happening."

As in 1914, no one really knows what a modern great war would be like. While much military thinking assumes conflict would remain conventional, nuclear powers have kept their atomic war planning up to date, maintaining target lists for mutually assured destruction, current and former officials say. Cyber attacks, some experts say, could be almost as destructive, as could the effects on global trade in an unprecedentedly interconnected world. Meanwhile, some of the systems supposed to prevent conflict may be starting to weaken.

WEAKENED LINKS

U.S. officials had embarked on a campaign to build formal and informal communications channels with Beijing, mimicking the hotlines and procedures set up with Russia. Moscow and Washington have used those systems themselves in recent months to notify each other of missile tests and reconnaissance flights over each other's territory. Links with Russia, however, have weakened this year as NATO states canceled conferences and military exchanges with Moscow in protest at the annexation of Crimea.

Contacts with China have also deteriorated in the last month, particularly since Washington indicted five Chinese officials for cyber espionage, a charge Beijing denies. A near collision between U.S. and Chinese warships in January, a mock Russian attack on a U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea in April and periodic confrontations between long-range bombers and other aircraft show the risks, experts warn. Last week on Japan and China accused each other of "dangerous" and "over the top" actions after warplanes came within a few dozen meters.

Any additional challenge to the West, some analysts say, is that both Russia and China know Washington would struggle to handle simultaneous confrontations. U.S. forces are spread around the world while Moscow's and Beijing's, while smaller, are almost exclusively focused on their immediate neighborhood. Since 2008, they have increased military spending 30 and 40 percent respectively, according to London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The 2012 Asia "pivot", which saw the U.S. Navy in particular moving to increase its Pacific footprint, aimed to make crisis response easier.

In Europe, in contrast, NATO has little developed thinking beyond its post-Crimea strategy of putting small numbers of U.S. troops and jets on the frontline in eastern member states they fear Moscow might target next. Until Ukraine, European states had viewed their primary military focus as occasional intervention, peacekeeping and counterinsurgency in the Middle East and Africa.

"We are in uncharted territory," said one senior Western official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It means ... reconstituting high end fighting skills and properly thought through doctrine for both conventional and nuclear deterrence."

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/west-ponders-stop-fight-great-war-113159434.html

Ukraine energy firm hiring Biden’s son raises ethical concerns



Vice President Joe Biden’s visit Saturday to Ukraine in support of the country's new democratic government is renewing concerns about his youngest son being hired by a Ukraine company promoting energy independence from Moscow.

Hunter Biden will be working for the company while his father and others in the Obama administration attempt to influence energy policies and other issues of the new government, which is gripped in a struggle with Russia and pro-Russian separatists to control the county.

The company, Burisma Holdings Limited, says it wants to reduce Ukraine's dependence on Russian gas and oil, a goal that parallels U.S. efforts to aid Ukraine's energy industry.

The other major issues are Hunter Biden’s new employer leases natural gas fields in Crimea, an eastern Ukraine peninsula being controlled by Russia in the country’s months-long political upheaval. And the company is owned by a former Ukraine government minister, Nikolai Zlochevskyi, who has ties to the country's ousted pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

The 44-year-old Biden was hired in April and will be a director and lawyer for the company. American conflict-of-interest laws and federal ethics rules essentially do not regulate the business activities of adult relatives of those who work in the White House, and there’s no indication that the situation crosses legal or ethical lines. But ethics experts appear divided over the implications.

"The primary problem here is the fact that Hunter Biden has set up a financial arrangement with someone who might have business pending before this administration," said Craig Holman, an ethics expert with Public Citizen, a Washington-based government reform organization.

Joe Biden led the U.S. delegation at Saturday's inauguration of Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko, and announced $48 million in additional aid for the Kiev government. Biden met Poroshenko and said "there is a window for peace and you know as well as anyone that it will not stay open indefinitely ... America is with you." The Office of the Vice President said some of the money will help Ukraine “enhance its energy security.” 

Ukraine is an important natural-gas and petroleum-liquids transit country. Two major pipeline systems carry Russian gas through Ukraine to Western Europe. At least two oil and natural gas fields leased by subsidiaries of Burisma are in Ukrainian territories where pro-Russian sentiments remain strong, according to government and media releases, independent energy maps and Burisma's website.

One is in the breakaway Russian-backed state of Crimea. The other is in the eastern Ukrainian Kharkiv region. Instability there could force the younger Biden's new company to coordinate with pro-Russian separatists whom the U.S. considers illegitimate. White House officials declined to comment on Hunter Biden's association with Burisma and the company's holdings in Crimea and east Ukraine.

The vice president's spokeswoman, Kendra Barkoff, previously said that Biden's son is a private citizen and a lawyer, and that Joe Biden "does not endorse any particular company and has no involvement with this company."

Presidents and vice presidents have long been vexed by relatives rewarded for family ties. Political loan troubles shadowed Vice President Richard Nixon's brother, Donald, during the 1960 election, and President Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy, who accepted a $220,000 stipend in 1981 from Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.

In recent years, several Bush and Clinton relatives were caught in a string of murky financial and political dealings.

But "unless there's solid evidence that Hunter Biden got his job to influence American foreign policy, there's no clear line that's been crossed," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. A former Washington lobbyist, the vice president's son is effectively exempt from most rules that would require him to describe publicly the legal work he does on behalf of Burisma.

Zlochevskyi's name is missing from Burisma's web site, but financial documents in Cyprus as well as U.S. Securities and Exchange records show that he owns the bulk of Burisma's shares. Zlochevskyi's Cyprus-based Brociti Investments Limited controls Burisma.

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