Chinese Support for Russia at SCO Summit - August, 2008

As to why China has remained silent regarding Moscow's actions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia: Silence means support, in this case; China has indirectly supported Russia's actions in the Caucasus. There aren't many nations on earth today that are willing to openly go against the western world's global political/financial system or apparatus. In a sense, all roads in the modern world - economic, security, political, social - lead to the western world, specifically to the United States. Nations are forced to enter this global system to prosper, or to simply survive. We keep forgetting that the only reason why China exists, as a economic superpower, is because of its very close ties with the West's global economic system. The West seeks to check Russian power in Asia by sustaining China. As a result, China is desperately dependent on its lucrative trade with the western world to survive and it also has to import virtually all of its vast energy needs. On the other hand, the Russian Federation is perhaps the only political entity on earth today that is truly independent of the West; not totally, but to a great extent. Russia's great natural wealth and military power, coupled with its political independence is what is making the political/financial elite in the West looking for ways to undermine it. The Russian Federation has great potential and power brokers in the West do not want to be second (or third) to anyone. This is where the real danger to global security lies, the West will do anything in their power to maintain their long held global primacy.



Support for Russia at SCO Summit

August, 2008

Russia has won crucial support for its peace efforts in South Ossetia from China and other allies in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). At a summit meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Thursday, the six-nation SCO security grouping explicitly backed Russia’s “active role” in restoring peace in the region and endorsing a six-point peace plan worked out jointly with France. “The SCO states welcome the adoption in Moscow on August 12 of six principles of settling the conflict in South Ossetia and support Russia’s active role in contributing to peace and cooperation in the region,” said the leaders of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in a joint declaration adopted at their one-day summit.

Though the SCO leaders refrained from condemning Georgia’s military attack on its breakaway territory of South Ossetia, their solidarity with Russia stood in stark contrast with the West’s denunciation of the “Russian aggression” against Georgia. The SCO support came ahead of an EU summit meeting on Monday called to discuss ways to punish Russia. “The SCO states express grave concern in connection with the recent tensions around the South Ossetian issue and urge the sides to solve existing problems peacefully, through dialogue, and to make efforts facilitating reconciliation and talks,” said the SCO declaration.

It made no reference to Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, who attended the summit, thanked the SCO leaders for their “understanding and objective assessment of Russia’s peacemaking efforts”. “I hope [the SCO stand] will send a serious signal to those, who try… to justify the bloody adventure of the Georgian leadership,” said Mr. Medvedev, adding that Georgia’s “criminal actions” had been “connived and incited” from abroad. At a one-to-one meeting with Mr. Medvedev, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev said his country “understands and supports the measures taken by Russia”. “I’m amazed at the West’s failure to acknowledge the fact that it was Georgian armed forces who attacked peaceful civilians in Tskhinvali,” said Mr. Nazarbayev in televised remarks. “This started the conflict, and Russia’s all subsequent actions were aimed at stopping the bloodshed,” he said.


Russia wins backing from China, Central Asia over Georgia

Russia won support Thursday from China and Central Asian states in its standoff with the West over the Georgia conflict as the European Union said it was weighing sanctions against Moscow. Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev said he hoped the "united position" of a summit of Central Asian nations would "serve as a serious signal to those who try to turn black into white". The West has strongly condemned Russia's military offensive in Georgia this month and Medvedev's decision to recognise Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Ratcheting up pressure on Russia, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the presidency of the European Union, said the 27-nation bloc was preparing sanctions on Moscow. EU leaders meet Monday in Brussels for an emergency summit to press demands for a further Russian withdrawal from Georgia. "Sanctions are being considered, and many other means," Kouchner said in Paris.

China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan voiced support for Russia's "active role" in resolving the conflict in Georgia, according to the draft of a joint statement released by the Kremlin. Leaders from the countries met in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional group set up in 2001 to counter NATO influence in the strategic Central Asia region. On Wednesday, the Group of Seven industrialised powers strongly condemned Russia's recognition of the two rebel regions. "We deplore Russia's excessive use of military force in Georgia and its continued occupation of parts of Georgia," said the statement from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. Former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze warned meanwhile that Russia's recognition of the regions would boomerang on Moscow. "They will live to regret it," Shevardnadze said in an interview in Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, adding that the move would "encourage separatist movements within ethnically-diverse Russia".

Russia claims it had to act after Georgia on August 7 launched an offensive to retake South Ossetia, an attack that South Ossetia's prosecutor general said Thursday had killed 1,692 people, according to the Interfax news agency. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday called on Moscow to allow an international probe into the allegations of abuses. "(Moscow) alleges that these atrocities were meted out on the South Ossetian population. Russia or South Ossetia must document whether this is the case and to what extent," Steinmeier told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily. On a visit to Ukraine on Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned Russia not to start a new Cold War. But he also conceded that isolating Russia would be counterproductive because the West relied on cooperation with Moscow to tackle global problems like climate change and nuclear non-proliferation. "The Russian president says he is not afraid of a new Cold War. We don't want one," Miliband said, adding: "He has a big responsibility not to start one," he added. Russia has lashed out at the West for ratcheting up tensions in the Black Sea and warned that attempts to isolate Moscow could lead to an economic backlash.

Officials said they were monitoring a growing NATO naval presence in the Black Sea, as the second of three US ships sent to deliver aid arrived in Georgia. Moscow has accused the West of using aid shipments as a cover for rearming Georgia after the Russian military surge into Georgia this month left much of the Georgian military in tatters. "Certainly some measures of precaution are being taken," said a spokesman for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov. "It's not a common practice to deliver humanitarian aid using battleships." In a reminder of Russia's energy muscle, he also warned against trying to isolate Moscow. "Any attempts to jeopardise this atmosphere of cooperation... would not only (have) a negative impact for Russia but will definitely harm the economic interests of those states," Peskov said.

Russia moved its own naval forces to the Abkhaz port of Sukhumi, where they got a rapturous reception from Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh. In Tbilisi, the secretary of the Georgian national security council, Alexander Lomaia, told AFP that Russian troops would leave the key Black Sea port of Poti on Thursday or Friday "as a result of international pressure". No confirmation of such a move was forthcoming from the Russian side. In the Georgian port of Batumi, the second of three ships sent by Washington arrived with aid for some of the 100,000 people that the UN refugee agnecy estimates have been displaced in the conflict.


In other news:

Russia Remains a Black Sea Power

If the struggle in the Caucasus was ever over oil and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) agenda towards Central Asia, the United States suffered a colossal setback this week. Kazakhstan, the Caspian energy powerhouse and a key Central Asian player, has decided to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia over the conflict with Georgia, and Russia's de facto control over two major Black Sea ports has been consolidated. At a meeting in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on Thursday on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Kazakh President Nurusultan Nazarbayev told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that Moscow could count on Astana's support in the present crisis.

In his press conference in Dushanbe, Medvedev underlined that his SCO counterparts, including China, showed understanding of the Russian position. Moscow appears satisfied that the SCO summit also issued a statement on the Caucasus developments, which, inter alia, said, "The leaders of the SCO member states welcome the signing in Moscow of the six principles for regulating the South Ossetia conflict, and support Russia's active role in assisting peace and cooperation in the region." The SCO comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. There were tell-tale signs that something was afoot when the Kazakh Foreign Ministry issued a statement on August 19 hinting at broad understanding for the Russian position. The statement called for an "unbiased and balanced assessment" of events and pointed out that an "attempt [was made] to resolve a complicated ethno-territorial issue by the use of force", which led to "grave consequences". The statement said Astana supported the "way the Russian leadership proposed to resolve the issue" within the framework of the United Nations charter, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and international law. The lengthy statement leaned toward the Russian position but offered a labored explanation for doing so. Kazakhstan has since stepped out into the thick of the diplomatic sweepstakes and whole-heartedly endorsed the Russian position. This has become a turning point for Russian diplomacy in the post-Soviet space. Nazarbayev said:

I am amazed that the West simply ignored the fact that Georgian armed forces attacked the peaceful city of Tskhinvali [in South Ossetia]. Therefore, my assessment is as follows: I think that it originally started with this. And Russia's response could either have been to keep silent or to protect their people and so on. I believe that all subsequent steps taken by Russia have been designed to stop bloodshed of ordinary residents of this long-suffering city. Of course, there are many refugees, many homeless. Guided by out bilateral agreement on friendship and cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia, we have provided humanitarian aid: 100 tons have already been sent. We will continue to provide assistance together with you. Of course, there was loss of life on the Georgian side - war is war. The resolution of the conflict with Georgia has now been shifted to some indeterminate time in the future. We have always had good relations with Georgia. Kazakhstan's companies have made substantial investments there. Of course, those that have done this want stability there. The conditions of the plan that you and [President of France Nicolas] Sarkozy drew up must be implemented, but some have begun to disavow certain points in the plan.

However, I think that negotiations will continue and that there will be peace - there is no other alternative. Therefore, Kazakhstan understands all the measures that have been taken, and Kazakhstan supports them. For our part, we will be ready to do everything to ensure that everyone returns to the negotiating table. From Moscow's point of view, Nazarbayev's words are worth their weight in gold. Kazakhstan is the richest energy producer in Central Asia and is a regional heavyweight. It borders China. The entire US regional strategy in Central Asia ultimately aims at replacing Russia and China as Kazakhstan's number one partner. American oil majors began making a beeline to Kazakhstan immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 - including Chevron, with which US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was associated. Unsurprisingly, Kazakhstan figured as a favorite destination for US Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W Bush has lavishly hosted Nazarbayev in the White House.

The US had gone the extra league in cultivating Nazarbayev, with the fervent hope that somehow Kazakhstan could be persuaded to commit its oil to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, whose viability is otherwise in doubt. The pipeline is a crucial component of the US's Caspian great game. The US had gone to great lengths to realize the pipeline project against seemingly hopeless odds. In fact, Washington stage-managed the "color" revolution in Georgia in November 2003 (which catapulted Mikheil Saakashvili to power in Tbilisi) on the eve of the commissioning of the pipeline. The general idea behind the commotion in the South Caucasus was that the US should take control of Georgia through which the pipeline passes. Besides, Kazakhstan shares a 7,500 kilometer border with Russia, which is the longest land border between any two countries in the world. It would be a nightmare for Russian security if NATO were to gain a foothold in Kazakhstan. Again, the US strategy had targeted Kazakhstan as the prize catch for NATO in Central Asia. The US aimed to make a pitch for Kazakhstan after getting Georgia inducted into NATO. These American dreams have suffered a setback with the Kazakh leadership now closing ranks with Moscow. It seems Moscow outwitted Washington.

Belarus voices support The other neighboring country sharing a common border with Russia, Belarus, has also expressed support for Moscow. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko visited Medvedev in Sochi on August 19 to express his solidarity. "Russia acted calmly, wisely and beautifully. This was a calm response. Peace has been established in the region - and it will last," he commented. What is even more potent is that Russia and Belarus have decided to sign an agreement this autumn on creating a unified air defense system. This is hugely advantageous for Russia in the context of the recent US attempts to deploy missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

According to Russian media reports, Belarus has several S-300 air defense batteries - Russia's advanced system - on combat duty and is currently negotiating the latest S-400 systems from Russia, which will be made available by 2010. Attention now shifts to the meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is scheduled to take place in Moscow on September 5. The CSTO's stance on the crisis in the Caucasus will be closely watched. It appears that Moscow and Kazakhstan are closely cooperating in setting the agenda of CSTO, whose members are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The big question is how the CSTO gears up to meet NATO's expansion plans. The emergent geopolitical reality is that with Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Moscow has virtually checkmated the US strategy in the Black Sea region, defeating its plan to make the Black Sea an exclusive "NATO lake". In turn, NATO's expansion plans in the Caucasus have suffered a setback. Not many analysts have understood the full military import of the Russian moves in recognizing the breakaway Georgian republics.

Russia has now gained de facto control over two major Black Sea ports - Sukhumi and Poti. Even if the US-supported regime of Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine creates obstacles for the Russian fleet based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol - in all probability, Moscow will shrug off any Ukrainian pressure tactic - the fleet now has access to alternative ports on the Black Sea. Poti, in particular, has excellent facilities dating to the Soviet era. The swiftness with which Russia took control of Poti must have made the US livid with anger. Washington's fury stems from the realization that its game plan to eventually eliminate Russia's historical role as a "Black Sea power" has been rendered a pipe dream. Of course, without a Black Sea fleet, Russia would have ceased to be a naval power in the Mediterranean. In turn, Russia's profile in the Middle East would have suffered. The Americans indeed had an ambitious game plan towards Russia. There is every indication that Moscow intends to assert the strategic presence of its Black Sea Fleet. Talks have begun with Syria for the expansion of a Russian naval maintenance base at the Syrian port of Tartus. The Middle East media recently suggested in the context of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Moscow that Russia might contemplate shifting its Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol to Syria. But this is an incorrect reading insofar as all that Russia needs is a supply and maintenance center for its warships, which operate missions in the Mediterranean. In fact, the Soviet navy's 5th Mediterranean Squadron had made use of Tartus port for such purpose.

China shows understanding

Moscow will approach the CSTO summit pleased with the SCO's backing, even it it was not without reservations. Medvedev said of the SCO meeting, Of course, I had to tell our partners what had actually happened, since the picture painted by some of the Western media unfortunately differed from real facts as to who was the aggressor, who started all this, and who should bear the political, moral and ultimately the legal responsibility for what happened ... Our colleagues gratefully received this information and during a series of conversations we concluded that such events certainly do not strengthen the world order, and that the party that unleashed the aggression should be responsible for its consequences ... I am very pleased to have been able to discuss this with our colleagues and to have received from them this kind of support for our efforts. We are confident that the position of the SCO member states will produce an appropriate resonance through the international security, and I hope this will give a serious signal to those who are trying to justify the aggression that was committed.

It must have come as a relief to Moscow that China agreed to line up behind such a positive formulation. On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow also seems to have had its first contact with the Chinese Embassy regarding the issue. Significantly, the Foreign Ministry statement said the meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin and Chinese ambassador Liu Guchang took place at the Chinese initiative. The statement claimed, "The Chinese side was informed of the political and legal motives behind Russia's decision and expressed an understanding of them." (Emphasis added.) It is highly unlikely that on such a sensitive issue, Moscow would have unilaterally staked a tall claim without some degree of prior tacit consent from the Chinese side, which is a usual diplomatic practice. The official Russian news agency report went a step further and highlighted that "China had expressed its understanding of Russia's decision to recognize Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia". The favorable stance by Belarus, Kazakhstan and China significantly boosts Moscow's position. In real terms, the assurance that the three big countries that surround Russia will remain on friendly terms no matter the West's threat to unleash a new cold war, makes a huge difference to Moscow's capacity to maneuver. Any time now - possibly this weekend - we may expect Belarus to announce its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Clearly, Moscow is disinterested to mount any diplomatic campaign to rally support from the world community for the sovereignty and independence of the two breakaway provinces. As a Moscow commentator put it, "Unlike in comrade Leonid Brezhnev's time, Moscow is not trying to press any countries into supporting it on this issue. If it did, it could find quite a few sympathizers, but who cares?" It serves Moscow's purpose as long as the world community draws an analogy between Kosovo and the two breakaway provinces. In any case, the two provinces have been totally dependent on Russia for economic sustenance. With the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, what matters critically for Moscow is that if the West now intends to erect any new Berlin Wall, such a wall will have to run zig-zag along the western coast of the Black Sea, while the Russian naval fleet will always stay put on the east coast and forever sail in and out of the Black Sea. The Montreal Convention assures the free passage of Russian warships through the Straits of Bosphorous. Under the circumstances, NATO's grandiose schemes to occupy the Black Sea as its private lake seem outlandish now. There must be a lot of egg on the faces of the NATO brains in Brussels and their patrons in Washington and London.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.


NATO Ships in Black Sea Raise Alarms in Russia

Russian commanders said Wednesday that they were growing alarmed at the number of NATO warships sailing into the Black Sea, saying that NATO vessels now outnumbered the ships in their fleet anchored off the western coast of Georgia. As attention turned to the balance of naval power in the sea, the leader of the separatist region of Abkhazia said he would invite Russia to establish a naval base at Sukhumi, a deep-water port in the territory. But in a move certain to anger Russia, Ukraine’s president, Viktor A. Yushchenko, said he would open negotiations with Moscow on raising the rent on the Russian naval base at Sevastopol, which is in Crimea, a predominantly Russian province of Ukraine. The United States was pursuing a delicate policy of delivering humanitarian aid on military transport planes and ships, apparently to illustrate to the Russians that they do not fully control Georgia’s airspace or coastline.

The policy has left American and Russian naval vessels maneuvering in close proximity off the western coast of Georgia, with the Americans concentrated near the southern port of Batumi and the Russians around the central port of Poti. It has also left the Kremlin deeply suspicious of American motives. “What the Americans call humanitarian cargoes — of course, they are bringing in weapons,” President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia told the BBC in an interview on Tuesday, adding, “We’re not trying to prevent it.” The White House dismissed all assertions that the Pentagon was shipping weapons under the “guise” of humanitarian aid, as the state-controlled news media put it, calling them “ridiculous.” Apparently testing Russian assurances that their forces have opened the port of Poti for humanitarian aid, the United States Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, said a Coast Guard cutter, the Dallas, would try to dock there on Wednesday, well within a zone controlled by the Russian military during the war. The Dallas, however, docked instead at Batumi, to the south. It was carrying 34 tons of humanitarian aid.

Georgian military officials said the other port might have been mined, The Associated Press reported. During the conflict with Georgia, Russian soldiers occupied the port of Ponti and sank Georgian ships in the harbor. Russian officials have said that their forces are now out of the city, but that they are still occupying positions at checkpoints just to the north. Russian ships are also patrolling off the coast. NATO on Wednesday called on Russia to reverse its decision to recognize two rebel Georgian regions and urged it to respect Georgia’s territorial integrity. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said in a speech to the French diplomatic corps that no one wanted another cold war and called on Russia to pull back its forces to positions they held before the current conflict with Georgia. “NATO is not an adversary but a partner of Russia,” he added. “As for the European Union, it seeks to build with this country a close and positive relation. It is for Russia today to make a fundamental choice.”

Russia continued to dismiss Western criticism, with Mr. Medvedev defending Russia’s actions as necessary to protect against a “genocide” by the Georgian armed forces in South Ossetia. In Moscow, the agriculture minister, Aleksei Gordeyev, told reporters that Russia could cut poultry and pork import quotas by hundreds of thousands of tons, the news agency Itar-Tass said. The Kremlin also kept up efforts to build support for its actions in Georgia, although with little result. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry broke a long silence from Beijing by saying that China was concerned about “the latest development in South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Agence-France Presse reported. And the Russian ambassador to Macedonia told reporters that he had asked the authorities there to recognize the two breakaway Georgian regions, though Russia has pledged not to force any states to recognize them. Macedonia itself broke away from Yugoslavia, when that country disintegrated in the 1990s.

In Moscow, the naval maneuvering was clearly raising alarms. Russian commanders said the buildup of NATO vessels in the Black Sea violated a 1936 treaty, the Montreux Convention, which they maintain limits to three weeks the time noncoastal countries can sail military vessels on the sea. Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, said at a briefing in Moscow that under the agreement, Turkey, which controls the straits of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, must be notified 15 days before military ships sail into the sea, and that warships could not remain longer than 21 days. “The convention stipulates a limited number of vessels,” he said. “That is, the same state cannot deploy a certain group without any limit.” He said any sustained NATO deployment would require rotating ships through the straits. It was unclear on Wednesday how many NATO ships were currently in the Black Sea.

A spokesman at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, in Mons, Belgium, said there were four NATO warships there on a previously scheduled exercise called Active Endeavor, for training in antiterrorist and anti-pirate maneuvers. But he cautioned that other NATO countries could have ships in the sea not operating under NATO command. “Obviously, there are other NATO-affiliated nations out doing things,” Lt. Col. Web Wright, the spokesman, said. “But I can’t speak for those nations.” The United States guided missile destroyer McFaul, for example, docked over the weekend in Batumi to deliver humanitarian aid. A report by the Russian news agency Interfax cited this ship, along with three others, as operating in the sea, though it was unclear whether it referred to vessels taking part in the previously scheduled exercise.


Russia 'Could Destroy NATO Ships in Black Sea Within 20 Minutes'

Russia's Black Sea Fleet is capable of destroying NATO's naval strike group currently deployed in the sea within 20 minutes, a former fleet commander said on Friday. Russia's General Staff said on Tuesday there were 10 NATO ships in the Black Sea - three U.S. warships, the Polish frigate General Pulaski, the German frigate FGS Lubeck, and the Spanish guided missile frigate Admiral Juan de Borbon, as well as four Turkish vessels. Eight more warships are expected to join the group. "Despite the apparent strength, the NATO naval group in the Black Sea is not battle-worthy," Admiral Eduard Baltin said. "If necessary, a single missile salvo from the Moskva missile cruiser and two or three missile boats would be enough to annihilate the entire group." "Within 20 minutes the waters would be clear," he said, stressing that despite major reductions, the Black Sea Fleet (Image gallery) still has a formidable missile arsenal. However, Baltin said the chances of a military confrontation between NATO and Russia in the Black Sea are negligible. "We will not strike first, and they do not look like people with suicidal tendencies," he said. In addition to its flagship, the Moskva guided missile cruiser, Russia's Black Sea Fleet includes at least three destroyers, two guided missile frigates, four guided missile corvettes and six missile boats. NATO announced its decision to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia after the conclusion of hostilities between Tbilisi and Moscow over breakaway South Ossetia on August 12. Moscow recognized on Tuesday both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgia republic, despite being urged by Western leaders not to do so. Russia's General Staff later said the alliance's naval deployment in the Black Sea "cannot fail to provoke concern", with unidentified sources in the Russian military saying a surface strike group was being gathered there. According to Russian military intelligence sources, the NATO warships that have entered the Black Sea are between them carrying over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.


Russia Steps up Security of its Navy Facilities in Ukraine

Russia's Black Sea Fleet has stepped up security at its facilities in Ukraine to deter possible provocative acts, a senior navy official said Thursday. "Intelligence reports said authorities and a number of well-known public organizations in Ukraine plan actions against the Black Sea Fleet's navigation and hydrographic support facilities," said Cap. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo, an aide to Russia's navy commander. Dygalo said the fleet is enhancing security measures at the facilities to ensure their uninterrupted operation and safe navigation. The official said that such provocative actions would be illegal and in breach of the 1997 agreements on the lease by Russia of its Black Sea Fleet's naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

He added that such steps, if implemented, would harm talks in a Russian-Ukrainian sub-commission on the operation of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine. "The purpose of this sub-commission is to discuss any problems that might occur in a civilized manner. Decisions by local Ukrainian judicial institutions have no legal power in relation to Russian Black Sea Fleet facilities, and attempts by public movements and organizations to obstruct the operation of these facilities would cause extra tension in the region, where the Black Sea Fleet is located," Dygalo said. Frequent disputes have flared up between Russia and Ukraine over the lease of naval facilities on the Crimean peninsula. Ukrainian bailiffs have made several attempts to seize the headquarters of the Russian fleet's hydrographic service in Sevastopol and radio navigation facilities over the last few years.

The ownership of lighthouses, and the rent Russia pays for them, is one of the main ongoing disputes between the ex-Soviet neighbors. Under bilateral agreements, Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses the Sevastopol base until 2017. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko recently announced that Ukraine would not extend the lease beyond the date. In early June, Russia's lower house of parliament adopted a resolution saying the Russian-Ukrainian cooperation treaty could be denounced if Ukraine joins NATO. To Russia's annoyance, Ukraine's pro-Western leadership has been pursuing NATO membership since Yushchenko's 2004 election. Ukraine failed to secure an agreement on a NATO Membership Action Plan, a key step toward joining the alliance, at the organization's summit in April, but was told the decision would be reviewed in December.


Russia Tests Long-Range Missile as Tensions Mount

Russia successfully tested a long- range Topol missile designed to avoid detection by anti-missile defence systems from its Plesetsk launch site, a Russian military spokesman said yesterday. "The launch was specially tasked to test the missile's capability to avoid ground-based detection systems," said Colonel Alexander Vovk of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. Washington and Warsaw formally signed a deal last week to station elements of a US missile defense shield in Poland, a move that has aggravated Russian- Western tensions already raw from Moscow's intervention in Georgia. Russia has heaped scorn on the missile defence system, which the United States says is aimed at Iran, and through its Foreign Ministry last week vowed "to react, and not only through diplomatic protests." The RS-12M Topol, called the SS-25 Sickle by NATO, has a maximum range of 10,000 km and can carry one 550-kilotonne warhead. NATO yesterday rejected Russian criticism of its decision to send navy ships to the Black Sea, saying the five vessels there - from the United States, Spain, Germany and Poland - are on a routine exercise far from the coast of Georgia. The exercises were organized before Russia's military offensive in Georgia on August 8 to rebuff a Georgian attempt to retake breakaway South Ossetia. Russia has linked the visit of NATO warships to a delivery of aid to Georgia by two other US ships and accused NATO of a naval build- up in the Black Sea in violation of international agreements.


Georgia Conflict: South Ossetia Seeks to Merge With Russia

Mr Kokoity, holder of a Russian passport, is leader of the region's separatists, who use roubles, hold Russian passports and dream of rejoining Russia

Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia has signalled that it will formally seek to merge with Russia. This move would amount to Russia’s annexation of an area of another state and the redrawing of the map of a corner of Europe. South Ossetia, with a largely Russian population of only 70,000, has no viable future as an independent state and observers believe that its only realistic option is to join its giant neighbour. President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia discussed this option with his South Ossetian counterpart, Eduard Kokoity, earlier this week during a meeting in Moscow. Znaur Gassiyev, the Speaker of South Ossetia’s parliament, said the enclave would formally join Russia "in several years" or possibly earlier. This had been "firmly stated by both leaders” during their meeting in Moscow. Tarzan Kokoiti, the deputy Speaker, predicted: “We will live in one united Russian state.” While the Kremlin has recognised South Ossetia as an “independent” country, Russia effectively controls the tiny enclave, which has no viable economy and depends largely on smuggling. If the area merges with Russia, this would be a formal acknowledgement of reality. At the close of this month’s war with Georgia, Russian troops were in full control of South Ossetia and the other breakaway region, Abkhazia.

Don't Pick a Fight you Can't Finish, Mr Miliband

When he visits Kiev, the Foreign Secretary should remember the threats posed by Nato's drive eastwards

Before making his speech on policy towards Russia in Kiev, Ukraine, later this week David Miliband would do well to ponder some wise advice from a great predecessor. Lord Salisbury, Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister in the days of the British Empire, dispensed immense global power; but that did not mean that he liked playing about with that power. Faced with proposals for British policy that he understood to be deeply damaging to the interests of other great powers, Salisbury would look his colleagues in the eye and ask simply: “Are you really prepared to fight? If not, do not embark on this policy.” If the events of the past fortnight in Georgia have demonstrated one thing clearly, it is that Russia will fight if it feels its vital interests under attack in the former Soviet Union - and that the West will not, and indeed cannot, given its conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Other Western threats are equally empty. Russia itself pulled out of co-operation with Nato. If a real threat is made of expulsion from the G8, Russia will leave that organisation too - especially since a club that does not include China and India is increasingly meaningless anyway. The threat of being barred from joining the World Trade Organisation is a bit stronger - but Russia has done so well economically without membership that this goal too has lost much of its allure. Moscow has reminded Nato of the importance of Russian goodwill to secure the supply lines of the US-Nato operation in Afghanistan through Central Asia. Alternatively, Nato can become wholly dependent on routes through Pakistan. From where I am sitting, that does not look like a very good move - and where I am sitting at this moment is a hotel room in Peshawar, Pakistan. By siding fully with Iran, Russia has the capability to wreck any possibility of compromise between Tehran and the West, and to push the US towards an attack that would be disastrous for Western interests - and enormously helpful to Russia's.

However, if only he will take it, Mr Miliband's speech could be a magnificent opportunity to set British policy towards Russia on a footing of sober reality - strengthening Western unity and resolve on issues such as reducing our energy dependence on Russia; but eschewing empty promises and shelving hopeless goals such as restoring Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia and forcing Russia to change its Constitution to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, accused of killing the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Russia, for its part, will have to abandon or shelve its own hopeless goals such as restoring Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo and forcing Britain to change its laws to extradite Boris Berezovsky and the Chechen leader Ahmed Zakayev.

Above all, Mr Miliband needs to think hard before committing Britain to support Nato membership for Georgia and Ukraine. He should look carefully at the widespread Western belief that Russia “set a trap for Georgia” in South Ossetia. There was no Russian trap. In recent years Moscow has made it absolutely, publicly and repeatedly clear that if Georgia attacked South Ossetia, Russia would fight. The obvious trap was set by President Saakashvili for the West, and was based on the belief that if he started a war to recover Georgia's lost territories, the West would come to his aid. This didn't work as well as Mr Saakashvili wished, because we have not gone to war for Georgia. On the other hand, every Western government statement offering future Nato membership is an implicit promise that we will do so in future if necessary. How can we make such a promise to a man who tried to involve us in a war without even asking us first? On Ukraine, Mr Miliband should study carefully a range of reliable opinion polls showing that by a margin of about three to one, ordinary Ukrainian voters are opposed to Nato membership. This is not only because they want good relations with Russia, but because they fear being dragged into disastrous American wars in the Muslim world. Even when it comes to the wider question of alignment with the West rather than Russia, the Ukrainian majority in favour of the Western line is slim - about 53 to 47 per cent to judge by the last Ukrainian presidential election. We should have learnt by now from the ghastly examples of Bosnia and elsewhere that a narrow numerical majority is simply not enough when existential national issues are at stake.

In other words, it is Nato's eastward drive, not Russian ambition, that is the greatest threat to Ukrainian stability and unity. A realistic British policy towards Ukraine should mean a genuine commitment to help it to develop economically, socially and politically in ways that will gradually draw it closer to the West and may one day make European Union membership possible. Under no circumstances should it mean plunging Ukraine into a disastrous crisis for the sake of a Nato alliance that cannot and will not defend it anyway. Viewing this conflict from Pakistan gives some interesting perspectives. The first is the absolute insanity of the West's stoking a crisis with Russia while facing such intractable problems in the Muslim world. It is also striking that the Pakistani media have been very balanced in their coverage of the crisis, despite their traditional hostility to Moscow. Is this because they have suddenly fallen in love with Russia? Not a bit. It is because when it comes to international lawlessness, bullying and aggression, they no longer see a great difference between Russia and America. The moralising of Western leaders, therefore, no longer cuts much ice in Peshawar - or anywhere else much outside the West itself.

Anatol Lieven is a professor at King's College London and a former Times correspondent in the Soviet Union


David Miliband Must Stop Playing With Fire

It takes two to start a cold war and Russia has so far been provoked pointlessly into confrontation

Russia, according to President Medvedev, is ready for a “new Cold War”. If politicians, including our own, want a new Cold War, they will get one. But the fault will lie as much with us as Russia. Every move in Russia's foreign policy is greeted by the West with alarm and suspicion. But its policy has been perfectly consistent for years. Russia's aim has been to rebuild itself as a great power, and use that power to regain a dominant position in the old Soviet space it surrendered in the 1990s. In Russia's perception, the United States wants to take over the space vacated by Russia as fruit of its victory in the Cold War, using Nato as a dagger, and Britain to supply moralistic veneer. Russia has made it clear for years how deeply it resents the expansion of Nato to its borders. One of Stalin's aims was to create “buffers” between the Soviet Union and Germany to stop a repetition of the two invasions that cost millions of Russian lives: the “buffer” reflex explains the militarily useless decision to keep a few Russian troops a few miles beyond the South Ossetian border. Russia was rightly pushed out of its satellites in 1989-90 by popular uprisings but it created the Commonwealth of Independent States in the expectation that it would provide a buffer against Western expansion. What did the West do? It expanded not just its political but also its military penetration into the CIS area whenever an opportunity presented itself. Most recently, the Anglo-American consortium made it clear that it wanted Georgia and Ukraine inside Nato, though Germany and France succeeded in blocking the move temporarily.

What did Britain and America think they were doing? Pushing Nato deep into the old Soviet Union and setting up a missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic on the patently false pretence that it was to counter the (non-existent) threat from Iran was bound to add to Russia's already considerable paranoia, without achieving anything worth having. Significantly, every shade of Russian opinion, from liberal to xenophobic, regards Western policy as crass. Does the British Government realise with what fire it is playing? Have they no memory of how a “local” quarrel in 1914 escalated into a world war? About a year ago I was at a lunch with the Georgian Ambassador, a delightful man but full of small-country big talk. I pointed out politely that small countries on the edge of big countries had to be careful not to provoke their larger neighbour; but that it is also perfectly possible for them to coexist peacefully if the smaller nation understands its place in the scheme of things. The conditions for such peaceful coexistence need not be especially onerous. Finland is a classic postwar example of a state that conducted itself so as to retain its independence and liberty even under Stalin's baleful eye. It was not a heroic or romantic stance, but a mature one.

President Saakashvili is a hothead. He invaded South Ossetia aiming to translate theoretical sovereignty into practical sovereignty and lost Georgia's theoretical sovereignty as a result. He ought to be removed by his people, not for war crimes but for gross incompetence. The West takes its stand on the rule of law. But international law has no enforcement mechanism. So its maintenance depends on the co-operation of the great powers; and this depends not only on the great powers being sensitive to each others' concerns, but small powers recognising that, whatever the UN charter says about equal sovereignty, some states are more sovereign than others. Russia will no more accept international law as binding if it goes against its interests than the US does, as it has shown in Kosovo, Iraq and elsewhere. Kosovo taught Russia an important post-communist lesson: if the West can invade a sovereign state without Security Council sanction, why not Russia?

The last thing Georgia needs is to join Nato. Membership will do nothing to protect its theoretical sovereignty; trying to get in will intensify its bullying by Russia and, will dangerously sour international relations. Russia and China are not natural allies, but Western moralism and geopolitical ambition will drive them together to resist what they see as encroachments on their space. If that happens, the world would be divided into democratic and authoritarian blocs - with a new arms race, economics turned into politics and globalisation stalled. Is this what David Miliband wants? If not, can he explain his foreign policy? The solution to the present crisis is obvious enough, but only the Georgians can bring it about. They should replace their hot-headed President with a cooler head. The new president should set about mending Georgia's fences with its giant neighbour. A helpful move would be to suspend its application to join Nato. Russia will cool down and we will all be able to breathe more easily. Mr Miliband might even be reduced to talking sense.


Georgia Was the "Last Straw" For Russia

A keen sense the West cheated Moscow out of promised warmer ties after the Cold War explains why Russia, recovered from post-Soviet collapse, has refused to be cowed over Georgia and demanded its views be heard. "It could have been Georgia or something else, but some kind of 'last straw' was waiting to come along," one Kremlin official commented. "We cannot endlessly retreat with a smiling face." Russia's military response to Georgia's bid to retake its Moscow-backed breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and their subsequent recognition by Moscow, has fuelled Western speculation of a reborn Soviet empire striking back. But things look totally different from Moscow, frustrated at what it sees as the West's failure to put their relations on an equal footing and its attempts to encircle Russia with a new "cordon sanitaire". The bitterness dates back to 1990, when reformist Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, keen to launch a new age in ties with the West, agreed to pull out troops from East Germany and give the green light to German unification. Russia says NATO reneged on a crucial promise. "Moscow's only condition was that NATO did not station troops in East Germany," a top Russian diplomat who took part in talks said. "The promise was given, but soon forgotten."

Some NATO officials challenge this, saying no such undertaking was given. In the ensuing years relations with the West were further strained by NATO giving membership to Moscow's Soviet-era satellites in Eastern Europe as well as to the ex-Soviet Baltic republics -- Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Poland and the Baltic states have since become vociferous critics of Russia within the U.S.-led alliance. In 1999 Russia protested in vain against NATO's bombings of Belgrade in a military campaign which ultimately led to the West recognizing the independence of Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo earlier this year. "We cannot base our actions on the opinion of a state whose budget falls within the statistical error of the U.S. budget," a senior U.S. diplomat in Moscow told reporters at the time. Top Russian officials have complained that Moscow's cooperation with the West on key international issues like the fight against terrorism, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea have failed to translate into a qualitative change in relations. "There is a feeling that the West treats Russia merely as a loser in the Cold War, which has to play by the winners' rules," Vladimir Putin, Russia's president for eight years until this May, once told reporters.


In the 1990s, when Russia's economy was in ruins, Moscow hid its pride. But in the last eight years an economic boom has allowed a resurgent Russia to play a more assertive role in the global economy and international diplomacy. Russia, a vital energy supplier for Europe and a lucrative investment location, decided it had sufficient levers and resources to speak in a different tone of voice. The West failed to notice the change. Putin and his successor Dmitry Medvedev have urged the West to treat Russia as an equal partner in a broader European context and review security arrangements that take account of its interests. But Russian protests were waved aside again, Moscow says, when Washington decided to station elements of its missile defence system in Eastern Europe. The move was seen by Moscow as a direct threat to its security despite U.S. insistence that the project is design to repel any potential attack by Iran and represents neither a political nor military threat to Russia. The United States has also pushed heavily for NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine -- something anathema to Russia because of its deep historical ties with these countries with whom it shares direct borders.

Russia has sent many signals that its patience was running out but the West dismissed as a rhetoric a tough speech by Putin in Munich in 2007. Similarly, the West failed to react to other warning shots by Moscow, such as resuming flights by its strategic bombers over the Atlantic and the freezing of Russia's obligations under a key pact limiting conventional arms in Europe. Russia's intervention in Georgia has clear signaled that Moscow has finally drawn a red line. "The 'entente cordiale' did not work," Russia's NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin has said, referring to accords between Britain and France signed in the early 20th century that put a line under centuries of hostility and conflict. "Relations should now be pragmatic," he said. "The good performance of our army in Ossetia has already impressed our partners," he added. "We should do everything to uphold this impression and end once and forever any temptation by our partners to resolve any problems by force.."


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what.Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.