That Was No Small War in Georgia - December, 2008

The geopolitical dimensions of the economic crisis currently being felt in the United States cannot be ignored or underestimated. The article below is a very powerful assessment of last summer's Russian-Georgian war and its very negative impact on the global stature of the United States. Was the war in question symbolic of Washington's decline? Perhaps, only time will tell. However, only now is the global community slowly beginning to realize that the brief yet bloody war that was fought in the southern Caucasus in the summer of 2008 suddenly and drastically altered the entire geopolitical face of that very strategic region. At the very least, Washington, London and Brussels, as well as Ankara and Tel Aviv, suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Russian Bear. Consequences of the war in question will gradually begin to reveal themselves within the next few years. The following report by Mark Ames is a must read.



That Was No Small War in Georgia — It Was the Beginning of the End of the American Empire

December, 2008

Tskhinvali, South Ossetia — On the sunny afternoon of August 14, a Russian army colonel named Igor Konashenko is standing triumphantly at a street corner at the northern edge of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, his forearm bandaged from a minor battle injury. The spot marks the furthest point of the Georgian army’s advance before it was summarily crushed by the Russians a few days earlier. “Twelve Georgian battalions invaded Tskhinvali, backed by columns of tanks, armored personal carriers, jets, and helicopters,” he says, happily waving at the wreckage, craters, and bombed-out buildings around us. “You see how well they fought, with all their great American training — they abandoned their tanks in the heat of the battle and fled.”

Konashenko pulls a green compass out of his shirt pocket and opens it. It’s a U.S. military model. “This is a little trophy — a gift from one of my soldiers,” he says. “Everything that the Georgians left behind, I mean everything, was American. All the guns, grenades, uniforms, boots, food rations — they just left it all. Our boys stuffed themselves on the food,” he adds slyly. “It was tasty.” The booty, according to Konashenko, also included 65 intact tanks outfitted with the latest NATO and American (as well as Israeli) technology.

Technically, we are standing within the borders of Georgia, which over the last five years has gone from being an ally to the United States to a neocon proxy regime. But there are no Georgians to be seen in this breakaway region — not unless you count the bloated corpses still lying in the dirt roads. Most of the 70,000 or so people who live in South Ossetia never liked the idea of being part of Georgia. During the violent land scramble that occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the South Ossetians found themselves cut off from their ethnic kin in North Ossetia, which remained part of Russia. The Russians, who’ve had a small peacekeeping force here since 1992, managed to keep the brewing conflicts on ice for the last 15 years. But in the meantime, the positions of everyone involved hardened. The Georgians weren’t happy about the idea of losing a big chunk of territory. The Ossetians, an ethnic Persian tribe, were more adamant than ever about joining Russia, their traditional ally and protector.

The tense but relatively stable situation blew up late in the evening of August 7, when on the order of president Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s army swept into South Ossetia, leveling much of Tskhinvali and surrounding villages and sending some 30,000 refugees fleeing north into Russia. Within hours, Russia’s de facto czar Vladimir Putin counterattacked — some say he’d set a trap — and by the end of that long weekend the Georgians were in panicked retreat. The Russian army then pushed straight through South Ossetia and deep into Georgia proper, halting less than an hour’s drive from Saakashvili’s luxurious palace. All around me is evidence of a rout. A Georgian T-72 tank turret is wedged into the side of a local university building, projecting from the concrete like a cookie pressed into ice cream. Fifty yards away you can see the remains of the vehicle that the orphaned turret originally was part of: just a few charred parts around a hole in the street, and a section of tread lying flat on the sidewalk. Russian tanks now patrol the city unopposed, each one as loud as an Einstrzende Neubauten concert, clouding the air with leaded exhaust as they rumble past us.

But listening to Colonel Konashenko, it becomes clear to me that I’m looking at more than just the smoldering remains of battle in an obscure regional war: This spot is ground zero for an epic historical shift. The dead tanks are American-upgraded, as are the spent 40mm grenade shells that one spetznaz soldier shows me. The bloated bodies on the ground are American-trained Georgian soldiers who have been stripped of their American-issue uniforms. And yet, there is no American cavalry on the way. For years now, everyone from Pat Buchanan to hybrid-powered hippies have been warning that America would suddenly find itself on a historical downslope from having been too reckless, too profligate, and too arrogant as an unopposed superpower. Even decent patriotic folk were starting to worry that America was suffering from a classic case of Celebrity Personality Disorder, becoming a nation of Tom Cruise party-dicks dancing in our socks over every corner and every culture in the world, lip-synching about freedom as we plunged headfirst into as much risky business as we could mismanage. And now, bleeding money from endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re a sick giant hooked on ever-pricier doses of oil paid for with a currency few people want anymore. In the history books of the future, I would wager that this very spot in Tskhinvali will be remembered as both the geographic highwater mark of the American empire, and the place where it all started to fall apart.

I first visited Georgia in 2002 to cover the arrival of American military advisers. At the time, the American empire was riding high. A decade after the Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia seemed to be devolving into an anarchic and corrupt failed state, while the U.S. just kept getting stronger. Within months of President George W. Bush’s swearing-in, Time ran a column boasting that America didn’t need to accommodate Russia anymore because it had become “the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome.” That same year we invaded Afghanistan without breaking a sweat. The New York Times magazine proclaimed: “The American Empire: Get Used to It.” A new word, hyperpower, was being used to describe our history-warping supremacy.

The military advisers were dispatched to Georgia ostensibly to train that country’s forces to fight local Al Qaeda cells, which everyone knew didn’t exist. In reality, we were training them for key imperial outsourcing duties. Georgia would do for the American Empire what Mumbai call centers did for Delta Airlines: deliver greater returns at a fraction of the cost. They became a flagship franchise of America Inc. It made sense for the Georgians, too: Their erratic and occasionally violent neighbor Russia wouldn’t fuck with them, because fucking with them would be fucking with us — and nobody would dare to do that. The imperial masterminds who fixated on Georgia as an outsourcing project must have figured we’d score a two-fer by simultaneously winning strategic control of the untapped oil in the region and also managing to stick a giant bug up the raw southern rim of our decrepit old rival Russia.

To enact this plan, America deftly organized and orchestrated the so-called Rose Revolution, which I witnessed in Tblisi in 2003. Saakkashvili’s predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, was judged unreliable, so in a multilayered soft putsch that used every lever of influence at our disposal, the U.S. replaced him with Saakashvili, a Columbia-educated hothead who speaks perfect neocon. In the Western media, the Rose Revolution was portrayed as 1776 redux (starring Saakashvili as George Washington with a permanent five o’clock shadow). A more perfect vassal for George W. Bush’s foreign policy could not have been found than “Misha,” as he is fondly known. He stacked his cabinet with young right-wing fanatics, and made sure he had a coterie of mountain-biking American advisers with him at all times. This crew included John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, whom Misha paid more than $1 million in lobbying fees.

This project in Georgia was just a high-profile example of a broader Bush strategy. All around Russia’s southern border, America laid claim to former Soviet domains. After 9/11, Putin infuriated many of his army commanders and security chiefs by agreeing to let the U.S. set up bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan for the Afghan invasion. Once the Taliban was removed from power, America decided that it felt like staying. After all, who was going stop us? Given the sorry state of their affairs, the Russians certainly weren’t. So by 2002, Putin was stuck with American pie dripping down his cadaverous bloodless face. But after years in which Russia rebuilt itself on the back of soaring commodity prices (today it’s the world’s largest producer of oil), our advantages in global power politics have started to tilt Putin’s way. Slowly and quietly he got American forces thrown out of Uzbekistan and all but sidelined in Kyrgyzstan. And then, here in Georgia, he seized the opportunity to really hammer home his point.

During my visit to Georgia in 2003, if someone had told me that in five years American military advisers would be hightailing it from their main base in Vasiani to avoid getting slaughtered by advancing Russian forces, I would have slapped him with a rubber chicken for insulting my intelligence. Yet there they were: gasping for air in the lobby of the Tblisi Sheraton, insisting off the record that the conflict was all the Georgians’ fault, not theirs.

Why Misha decided to attack is still a mystery. He claims he was forced to level Tskhinvali to preempt a Russian invasion, but that doesn’t make military sense, and has since been debunked by both Georgians and OSCE monitors on the ground; others believe that he struck because, with Bush on his way out, he thought this would be his last chance to regain control of South Ossetia. Another theory popular among journalists and pundits is that the notoriously “hotheaded” (some would say “mentally unstable”) Saakashvili was suckered into his doomed invasion by a clever Russian ruse, part of Putin’s plan to punish the West for recognizing Kosovo and other crimes of imperial insensitivity. Personally, I’d vote for number two. (Putin has offered an alternative hypothesis: that Misha intentionally sparked a war in order to boost John McCain’s prospects in the U.S. election.)

Prior to the offensive of August 7, Georgians cut off Russian television and Internet sites in South Ossetia, then rained Grad rockets and artillery on the capital and surrounding villages. The early-hours blitz was, as one Ossetian told me the day before, “shock and awe.” At least half the population fled into Russia. People I spoke to in the refugee camps, mostly women, were still in a daze — they told of fleeing their burning villages under fire, of Georgians raping and murdering, of grenades thrown into civilian bomb shelters, of tanks running over children. (It was impossible to corroborate these individual stories, as is generally the case in trying to sift fact from inflamed rumor in refugee camps.)

Reliable casualty counts for the broader conflict are still all but impossible to get, but as of late August the Russians admit having lost 64 soldiers, and the Georgians a combined 215 soldiers and civilians. In both cases, the real number is probably much higher. On the civilian front, Ossetian sources claim that 1,500 were killed in the Georgian assault — Putin called it a “genocide” — but many Westerners dismiss that figure. Privately, however, American advisers and defeated Georgian commanders admit to “total defeat.” Indeed, Arkady Ostrovsky of the Economist, a British reporter who has long been close to Saakashvili, told me that on the day of the cease-fire, the Georgian leader spoke of shooting himself, and was only dissuaded when word came of a supportive statement by Condi Rice. “It was sad to watch,” Ostrovsky told me. “I should have been more critical of Saakashvili back when it might have counted. A lot of us should have.”

That’s exactly the kind of full-spectrum smackdown the Russians were aiming for. And Konashenko wants us all to see it, so he offers to take me and some other reporters to the city of Gori in occupied Georgia. Russia seized control of the city at the end of hostilities, essentially cutting its foe in two and leaving it exposed to Vladimir Putin’s whims. “We’ll show you Gori — the city is spotless,” Konashenko says cheerfully. “We could have destroyed it, but we didn’t. Of course, there’s a little bit of damage here and there” The next morning, I head toward Georgia in the back of a Russian army truck, winding through the countryside of South Ossetia. Many villages have been burned and completely leveled. In the minority ethnic- Georgian communities, the sour odor of death hangs in the air, as those who survived the Ossetians’ reprisal attacks had little time to bury their dead friends and relatives.

When we arrive in Gori, the locals seem unnerved by our presence. They shy away as aggressive reporters point cameras and pursue them along the cobblestone streets for a quote. At first, some say that they are grateful that the Russian forces are there to protect them from marauding Ossetian and Chechen irregulars, who had swept through parts of Georgia murdering civilians and looting homes before the Russians arrived. After a half hour, the Georgians we talk with get used to our presence. A few summon the nerve to quietly pull me aside and whisper things like, “Are the Russians ever going to leave?” and “We don’t have any information here. Is this going to be Russian territory forever?”

In Gori’s vast central square there is shattered glass on the sidewalks, but as Konashenko promised, the city is largely intact. It is also starkly empty, as if a virus or neutron bomb had wiped out the civilian population. Most of the city’s inhabitants have long since fled to Tblisi, along with the soldiers. As we hop out of the army trucks, one of the Russian commanders points to a limp banner flying at half-mast over the polished-granite administration building on the far side of the square, “You see?” he says. “The Georgian flag is still flying. This is Georgian territory — we’re not annexing it like the media says.” This kind of boast, conquering a country and then making a big noble show of respecting its sovereignty, was something that had once been reserved for America’s forces. How quickly history has turned here.

The other Western journalists fan out for some atrocity hunting, digging for signs that the Russians might have dropped a cluster bomb or massacred civilians. The foreign-desk editors back home have been demanding proof of Russian evil, after largely ignoring Georgia’s war crimes in South Ossetia. It’s a sordid business, but the reporters are just following orders.

After an hour in the 90-degree heat, I head over to the city’s central square, where I stumble across a stunning spectacle: dozens of Russian soldiers doing a funky-chicken victory dance in the Georgian end zone. They’re clowning around euphorically, shooting souvenir photos of each other in front of the administration building and the statue of Stalin (Gori’s most famous native son) while their commanders lean back and laugh. I approach Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Bobrun, assistant commander of the Russian land forces’ North Caucasus Military District — the roughest neighborhood in Western Eurasia — and ask him how he feels now, as a victorious military leader in a proxy war with America.

“I have never been so proud of Russia — magnificent Russia!” Bobrun crows, an AK strapped over his shoulder. “For twenty years we just talked and talked, blabbed and blabbed, complained and complained. But we did nothing, while America ran wild and took everything it could. Twenty years of empty talk. Now Russia is back. And you see how great Russia is. Look around you — we’re not trying to annex this land. What the fuck do I need Georgia for? Russia could keep this, but what for? Hell, we could conquer the whole world if we wanted to. That’s a fact. It was Russia that saved Europe from Genghis Khan. Russia could have taken India and the Middle East. We could take anything — we took Alaska, we took California. There is nothing that Russia could not take, and now the world is being reminded again.”

“Why did you give California back?” I asked. It has always baffled me why a country would abandon prime coastal real estate for the frozen swamps of Siberia — I always assumed it was because the Russians were ashamed when they found themselves holding onto a chunk of this planet as perfect as California: like B-list nerds who successfully crash a Vanity Fair Oscar party, but within minutes of their little triumph, skulk out of the tent out of sheer embarrassment, knowing they never belonged there in the first place. “We gave it all back because we don’t need it,” Borisov boasted, puffing out his chest. “Russia has enough land, what the hell do we need more for. But if others want to start something, this is what will happen. Russia is back, and I am so proud.”

As the day wore on, the Kremlin press pool organizers finally rounded us up, and we headed back again along the same victory trail. It was on this second visit to ruins of Tskhinvali, as dusk approached and the violence seemed to already acquire a kind of abstract tone, that I started to realize that I was looking at something much bigger than the current debate about Russian aggression or who was more guilty of what — pulling the camera much farther back on this scene, I understood that I was looking at the first ruins of America’s imperial decline. It’s not an easy thing to spot. It took years after the real collapse for Russians to finally accept that awful reality, and to adjust accordingly, first by retrenching, not overplaying an empty hand, slowly building up without making any loud noises while America ran wild around the world bankrupting itself and bleeding dry.

And now it’s over for us. That’s clear on the ground. But it will be years before America’s political elite even begins to grasp this fact. In the meantime, Russia is drunk on its victory and the possibilities that it might imply, sending its recently-independent neighbors into a kind of frenzied animal panic. Experience has taught them that it’s moments like these when Russia’s near abroad becomes, once again, a blood-soaked doormat in the violent epochal shifts — history never stopped here, it just froze up for a decade or so. And now it’s thawing, bringing with it the familiar stench of bloated bodies, burned rubble, and the sour sweat of Russian infantry.

We have entered a dangerous moment in history — America in decline is reacting hysterically, woofing and screeching and throwing a tantrum, desperate to prove that it still has teeth. Which it does — but not in the old dominant way that America wants or believes itself to be. History shows that it’s at this moment, tipping into decline and humiliation, when the worst decisions are made, so idiotically destructive that they’ll make the Iraq campaign look like a mere training exercise fender-bender by comparison.

Russia, meanwhile, is as high as a Hollywood speedballer from its victory. Putting the two together in the same room — speedballing Russia and violently bad-tripping America — is a recipe for serious disaster. If we’re lucky, we’ll survive the humiliating decline and settle into the new reality without causing too much damage to ourselves or the rest of the world. But when that awful moment arrives where the cognitive dissonance snaps hard, it will be an epic struggle to come to our senses in time to prevent the William Kristols, Max Boots and Robert Kagans from leading us into a nuclear holocaust which, they will assure us, we can win against Russia, thanks to our technological superiority. If only we have the will, they’ll tell us, we can win once and for all.


Foreign Spies Seek Russia's Military, Nuclear Secrets - December, 2008

Foreign Spies Seek Russia's Military, Nuclear Secrets - FSB

December, 2008

Foreign intelligence services continue to try to obtain classified information on the Sevmash shipyard in Russia's northern Arkhangelsk Region, a senior FSB official said on Thursday. Sergei Stepura, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Directorate for the Arkhangelsk Region, said the countries involved included the United States, some of its NATO allies, and specific Asia-Pacific states. Located in Severodvinsk on the White Sea, Sevmash is Russia's largest shipyard and builds nuclear-powered submarines, oil and gas platforms and tankers. Stepura told a news conference at RIA Novosti that several foreign intelligence agents, as well as persons suspected of working on behalf of foreign intelligence agencies, had been "spotted around sensitive areas." He said a criminal case had been opened against a regional law enforcement officer under the provisions of the Official Secrets Act. Stepura also said there was still the danger of terrorist attacks on nuclear and other hazardous facilities in the region. He said two explosive devices, 16 firearms and 138 rounds of ammunition, as well as more than 6 kilograms of mercury, had been seized in the region this year.


In other news:

Russia's Yury Dolgoruky Submarine to Start Sea Trials by Year End

Russia's first Borey-class strategic nuclear submarine will start sea trials by the end of 2008, a defense industry source said on Thursday. The fourth-generation Yury Dolgoruky was built at the Sevmash plant in northern Russia and was taken out of dry dock in April 2007. It will be equipped with Bulava ballistic missiles upgraded from Topol-M (SS-27) missiles. "The successful testing of the submarine's nuclear reactor, conducted on December 16 by Sevmash and Northern Fleet specialists, enable us to say confidently that Yury Dolgoruky will start sea trials by yearend," the source said. The submarine is 170 meters (580 feet) long, has a hull diameter of 13 meters (42 feet), a crew of 107, including 55 officers, a maximum depth of 450 meters (about 1,500 feet) and a submerged speed of about 29 knots. It can carry up to 16 ballistic missiles. Two other Borey-class nuclear submarines, the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh, are currently under construction at the Sevmash shipyard and are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2011. Russia's Navy commander, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky, said in July that the construction of new-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile and attack submarines is a top priority for the Russian Navy's development. Under the Russian State Armaments Program for 2007-2015, the Navy will receive several dozen surface ships and submarines, including five Project 955 Borey-class submarines, two Project 885 Yasen nuclear-powered attack submarines, and six Project 677 Lada diesel-electric submarines.


Russia, Testing U.S. Sway, Offers Lebanon 10 Warplanes

Lebanon’s defense minister announced in Moscow on Tuesday that Russia had offered to give the country 10 MIG-29 fighter jets that would significantly upgrade its antiquated air force and serve as a slap to the United States. The United States is Lebanon’s main military partner, but American plans to help rebuild the country’s army and air force are moving slowly. And Russia, which is increasingly challenging the United States in regions where American influence has been paramount, has made other gestures toward reasserting itself in the Mediterranean. Lebanon’s military had no official comment on the offer. It is far from clear whether the jets would be delivered. The deal would depend on the Lebanese government’s approval and would have to be discussed with the country’s allies, said a former Lebanese military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing diplomatic sensitivities.

United States officials seemed somewhat taken aback by the announcement, saying they needed to speak with their military counterparts in Russia and Lebanon before they could confirm that Russia had made a formal offer. “This is very early yet,” said Christopher C. Straub, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East. He said American officials had no plans to offer a fighter jet to Lebanon to try to counter the Russian offer. That offer raised the possibility, however unlikely, of a striking change in direction for the Lebanese military. Defense Minister Elias Murr said Tuesday that the unexpected offer made his trip to Moscow “the most important visit I have made since my appointment as minister of defense,” according to Lebanon’s state-owned Central News Agency. He also referred to “promises we heard in the past about equipping the army with weapons,” some of which turned out to be “only promises,” The Daily Star, a Beirut newspaper, reported.

Those comments seemed to convey frustration with recent United States pledges to step up military aid to Lebanon after Syria withdrew in 2005. Some aid has been delivered, but at a slow pace, and it is not clear whether more substantial items, like combat helicopters, will arrive. Israeli leaders have expressed concern about some of the more powerful weapons being considered for Lebanon, fearing they could be used against their country. All this has led some Lebanese officials to question the American commitment. The American aid is meant to build an armed force to help stabilize Lebanon and provide a legitimate alternative to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Lebanon has a longstanding military relationship with the United States, where its officer corps has been trained. American officials have sometimes intervened when other countries offered to supply weapons. Lebanon’s air force consists of only a few 1950s-era jets and a small number of Vietnam War-era helicopters.

The MIG-29, often compared to the American F-16 fighter, is vastly more powerful than anything the United States was considering providing to Lebanon. The most recent Pentagon offer, in terms of air power, is a Cessna Caravan, a single-engine prop plane. The Cessna would allow Lebanon to strike a domestic terrorist target, Mr. Straub said. But it would be no threat to Israeli forces; it could easily be shot down. The MIG-29 has the potential to be a threat, given its speed, maneuverability and ability to carry advanced weapons.


Russian Navy Sails For Cuba - September, 2008

Russian Navy Sails For Cuba

Russian warships at U.S. borders:

December, 2008

Warships from Russia’s Northern Fleet are on their way to Cuba for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. A unit led by the Destroyer Admiral Chabanenko will moor in Havana on December 19 and stay there for at least four days. According to an aide to Russian Navy commander Captain Igor Dygalo, the visit "will be a significant practical step in strengthening and developing ties between the navies of the two countries”. It is expected the fleet's commanding officers will meet with the head of the Cuban Navy and Havana’s mayor and local residents will be allowed to visit Russian ships. The task force, which includes support the vessels Ivan Bubnov and SB-406, left Nicaragua on Monday. Earlier, the ships took part in joint exercises with Venezuela and visited Panama. The nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great, the submarine-hunting destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and support ships arrived in Venezuela in November for naval exercise dubbed ‘Venrus 2008’ in the Caribbean. The operation was widely seen as Moscow’s response to Washington’s decision to deliver aid to Georgia aboard warships following the country's conflict with Russia in August this year. Soviet ships and planes regularly visited Cuba during the Cold War, but Russian troops have been absent in the region since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.


A military Doctrine For Every Occasion

In 2009, Russia's armed forces will get a new military doctrine meeting present-day realities as defined by national security and foreign policy interests. A military doctrine is a set of principles defining the objectives of military planning, preparations for war, and the ways and means of warfare. These principles depend on the political system, form of government, economic and technological development, and the perception of its authors on what to anticipate from an expected war. The last Soviet doctrine was adopted in 1987 and was defensive in nature. It dropped the term "potential enemy" and confirmed its earlier commitment not to be the first to launch hostilities or use nuclear weapons. Soon after the adoption of this doctrine, the Soviet Union collapsed. Russia, which succeeded it, faced the need to redefine its place in the world and produce a new military doctrine.

In its 1993 doctrine, Russia repeated that it had no potential enemies and undertook not to use military force save for self-defense. Nuclear weapons came to be seen not as a fighting tool but as a political deterrent. Reasonable sufficiency became the principle underlying military potential: it was to be maintained at a level that would meet an existing threat. Further developments, however, forced the military to change some provisions of the doctrine. It was declared, for example, that along with ordinary weapons, nuclear weapons could be used to repulse an act of aggression. According to the doctrine, regional and local wars are today most likely, while a large-scale global war, including a nuclear war, is less probable. The experience of the past years and the expected course of events, however, suggest that although local and regional wars are indeed most probable, new destabilizing factors, such as destruction of nuclear missile parity, have appeared, making the option of a large-scale war more likely. For example, a U.S. missile defense shield, which, with military arsenals being cut, could deliver an unpunished first strike with little or no damage from a retaliatory attack.

It is to be hoped that Russia's new military doctrine, while emphasizing local and regional conflicts, will not loose focus on a large-scale nuclear conflict as probable in the current destabilized setting and include the missile defense system among external threats. In view of these factors, maintaining Russia's nuclear potential and its retaliation capability will be one of the main goals in guaranteeing its military security. To do so, it is necessary to have top-class armed forces able to fight in every environment and engage targets at any distance. Russia should also have a capability for taking part in peacekeeping operations and in local and regional conflicts, whose likelihood is only growing as events of the last few years have shown. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


Russian Military Confirms 13 Strategic Missile Launches For 2009

Russia's Strategic Missile Forces plan 13 training missile launches for next year, the forces commander Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said Wednesday. "We have scheduled 13 training launches for 2009. The number could come down a bit," he said. The commander said last month that the forces were planning to conduct at least 13 launches of ballistic missiles next year. "We are planning to carry out 13 launches in 2009: five test launches of new missiles, three launches to confirm the extension of missiles' service lives, and five launches of converted SS-18 Satan ICBMs under the Dnepr program to orbit various satellites," Solovtsov said in November. The Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) conducted seven launches of ballistic missiles in 2008 and postponed two launches until next year. Solovtsov also said in November that the SMF would put into service in 2009 systems equipped with new-generation RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missiles, bearing multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads. Russia carried out a third successful test of the RS-24 on November 26. According to open sources, the total arsenal of Russia's SMF comprises 536 ICBMs, including 306 SS-25 Topol (Sickle) missiles and 54 SS-27 Topol-M (Stalin) missiles.


U.S. "to Set up Bases" in Central Asia

The U.S. is planning to set up military bases in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, according to Russia's head of the General Staff. He said Washington already has forces in Bulgaria and Romania that can become operational within hours, raising concern in Moscow. Speaking at the Academy of Military Science, General Nikolay Makarov also pointed out that the U.S. is prompting Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO. "In this situation, it is clear that Russia is concerned by the deployment near its borders of NATO's advanced forces and bases ready to start combat operations within hours.” The chief of the General Staff also cited U.S. president-elect Barack Obama who said that “all efforts should be consolidated to monitor democratic reforms in Russia and China." General Makarov added that anyone hoping for policy change after Obama takes office is making a dire mistake. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan - former Soviet republics in Central Asia - are strategically important partners for both Moscow and Washington. The U.S. is strengthening its ties with oil-rich Kazakhstan, which in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, allowed American planes to fly over its territory during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Now that Washington has announced its plans to send 20,000 more troops to the war-ravaged country, the U.S., according to some Russian experts, will need more bases in neighbouring states. The U.S. also had a military base in Uzbekistan which served as a hub for combat and humanitarian missions to Afghanistan until 2005 when the Central Asian state evicted American troops from the airbase. But now Uzbekistan is turning its foreign policy westwards and searching for closer ties with Washington and the EU.


Russian Carrier-Based Fighters Exercise Over Atlantic

A Russian naval group led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, en route to the Mediterranean, conducted a series of training flights over the Celtic Sea, a Navy spokesman said on Tuesday. Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said Su-33 ship-based fighters had flown a total of 10 sorties. The naval group left the Northern Fleet base in Severomorsk on December 5 and set course for the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In addition to the Admiral Kuznetsov, it includes the Admiral Levchenko destroyer and a support ship and will begin a visit to Lisbon on Friday. Following the visit, the task force will pass through the Strait of Gibraltar, visit several ports in the Mediterranean, and exercise jointly with Russia's Black Sea Fleet. Another naval task force from the Northern Fleet, led by the Pyotr Veliky nuclear-powered cruiser, is currently on a tour of duty in the Caribbean. The Admiral Chabanenko destroyer and two support ships from this task force will visit Cuba on December 19-23. Meanwhile, a task force from Russia's Pacific Fleet, comprising the Admiral Vinogradov, an Udaloy class destroyer, a tugboat, and two tankers, is in the South China Sea heading for the Indian Ocean to take part in the INDRA-2009 joint naval drills with the Indian navy. Russia announced last year that its navy had resumed and would build up a constant presence in different parts of the world's oceans.


Russia to Hold More Test Launches of Bulava ICBM in 2009

Russia will hold several more test launches of the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile next year before a final decision to adopt it for service is made, a senior Navy official said on Tuesday. The latest test of the sea-launched Bulava missile took place on November 28. It was launched from the Dmitry Donskoi Typhoon-class strategic nuclear-powered submarine in the White Sea, effectively engaging its designated target on the Kamchatka Peninsula about 6,700 kilometers (4,200 miles) east of Moscow. The official said the previously announced test launch scheduled for Sunday, also to be made from the Dmitry Donskoi, would not be the last. "Next year, we plan to hold another three or four launches, including from the Yury Dolgoruky nuclear submarine, which may be equipped with this system in the future," the high-ranking member of the Navy's general staff said. He also said the remaining two heavy Akula-class Project 941 (NATO code name Typhoon) nuclear submarines would not be equipped with Bulava missiles, rejecting earlier media reports. "Various options are being considered, but the subs will not carry nuclear weapons anyway. They could be refitted to carry cruise missiles or to lay mines, or could be used in special operations," the official said. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said earlier this month that Russia would in December hold another test launch of the Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile, which has already gone into full-scale production. Russia is planning to adopt new sea-launched Bulava missiles for service with the Navy in 2009. The Bulava (SS-NX-30), carrying up to 10 nuclear warheads and having a range of 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles), is designed for deployment on Borey-class Project 955 nuclear-powered submarines. The first submarine in the series, the Yury Dolgoruky, was built at the Sevmash shipyard in the northern Arkhangelsk Region and is currently undergoing sea trials. The submarine has a length of 170 meters (580 feet), a body diameter of around 13 meters (42 feet), and a submerged speed of about 29 knots.


Russia is a Key Link to Oil

To give you an idea of where this article by a "distinguished professor of economics at the University of Mississippi" is coming from, I present you a self-explanatory quote by him - "...Russia's invasion and occupation of South Ossetia..."



Russia is a Key Link to Oil

December, 2008

If President-elect Barack Obama and his top advisers learn nothing else from Russia's invasion and occupation of South Ossetia this summer, it should be that Moscow aspires to be an energy superpower. Russia already is the world's second-largest producer of oil, pumping nearly 10 million barrels a day, and is the largest supplier of natural gas. Like all energy-exporting countries, Russia benefited enormously from the run-up in prices over the last decade. Every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil transferred about $1 billion into Russia's state budget. As a result, Russian foreign exchange reserves grew from $12 billion in 1999 to $470 billion at the end of last year, a balance equaled only by such countries as China, India and the Middle East oil producers.

Revived Russia

When its tanks rolled into Georgia, the Kremlin sent notice it intends to dominate the oil and natural gas resources of the former Soviet republics in the Caspian Sea basin, raising the threat of supply disruptions to Europe. That possibility could give Russia political leverage over Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine and other Central and East European countries that rely heavily on Russian fuels. As rising oil prices strengthened the Kremlin's hand, Mr. Putin clamped down on Russian businessmen, most notably by prosecuting and imprisoning Yukos Oil Co. Chief Executive Officer Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The new Obama administration needs to realize Russia has a potential stranglehold on America's European allies and will play its energy card when it wants to: to block the further expansion of NATO, for example, or the EU.

What's next?

Russia's next likely move, which could be delayed until the global economy starts picking up again, will be an attempt to orchestrate a global natural gas cartel patterned on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. About 15 gas-producing countries, led by Russia and Iran, met in 2004 and agreed to establish an "executive bureau" to coordinate "interests" in the global gas market. As world demand for natural gas begins to outpace supply, incentives for collectively reducing production and increasing prices will strengthen. For the United States, a combination of conservation, increased energy production and improvements in energy efficiency is the best defense against volatile oil and gas prices and Russian blackmail.

The most important step the United States can take on the energy front is to use more coal and nuclear power. America has a 250-year supply of coal, more plentiful on an energy-equivalent basis than the oil reserves of either Saudi Arabia or Russia. The president-elect should re-examine his position on coal in particular. "Clean coal" is not an oxymoron. Building more coal-fired power plants that use new technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions deep underground and converting coal into liquefied fuel for transportation are sensible policies. Increasing our reliance on coal and nuclear power would free up natural gas for household and industrial uses and go a long way toward immunizing the United States from both OPEC and Russian blackmail.

William F. Shughart II is Frederick A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Mississippi and a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, Oakland, Calif.


Gazprom Threatens New Ukraine Gas Cut

Russian energy giant, Gazprom, says it will stop gas supplies to Ukraine starting January 1, until the country pays off its $2 Billion gas debt for supplies in November and December, and a new contract is concluded. On Thursday Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov said the talks are in a deadlock. He said Ukraine has transferred $800 million for repayment of gas supplies in autumn, but also informed Gazprom that no more money would be transferred until the new year starts. “Thus we would have no legal grounds to supply gas starting January 1 and we won’t be able to turn to direct contracts with Ukraine until the debt is paid off,” Kupriyanov said.

The two sides have been negotiating for the past two months over a settlement of the gas debt but with no result. Also, Gazprom Deputy CEO Aleksandr Medvedev said the company has offered Ukraine several options to settle the issue, taking into consideration the complicated economic situation in the country, before adding “Unfortunately, none of the offered schemes were accepted to further settle the issue.” This comes after the signing of a memorandum, on gas cooperation, on October 2 between the Prime Ministers of Russia and Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Yulia Timoshenko.

One of the key points of the document is the possibility of direct long-term cooperation between Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogas starting from January 1, 2009. It also facilitates Gazprom directly selling up to 7.5 billion cubic metres of gas per year, to Ukrainian consumers. The document also confirms the intention to move step-by-step to mutually agreed market gas prices for Ukraine, and specifies prices for gas transit through Ukraine’s territory. The necessary condition, specified in the memorandum, is paying off the gas debt in full by Ukraine’s Naftogas company.


Foreign Policy: Russia’s Influence Extending in Karabakh

The following is an interesting article regarding how positively Armenians of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabagh Republic) view Russia. The author of the article, however, inline with CIA front office ArmeniaNow policy, had to make several inaccurate/half true remarks to balance out the overall pro-Russian tone of the article. It was stated that Stepanakert more-or-less rejected Moscow's peace plan and that Armenians in Artsakh distrust Russian troops due to Russian actions against the Armenian population of the region during the early stages of the conflict...

Three points to address here:

1) If Moscow for whatever reason decided that it definitely wants to station combat troops (peacekeepers) in Nagorno Karabagh - what Armenian in his/her right mind would think that Yerevan or Stepanakert can stop them from doing so? From supplying arms to supplying nuclear fuel, from delivering oil/gas to investing billions of US dollars in the Armenian economy Moscow more-or-less owns Armenia.

2) If Moscow for whatever reason decided to settle the conflict in question without the participation of Stepanakert - what Armenian in his/her right mind would think that Yerevan or Stepanakert can stop them from doing so?

3) When Moscow moved against the Armenians in Nagorno Karabagh during the early stages of the conflict in Artsakh it was not the Russian Federation doing so it was Communism. Soviet troops under a red flag moved against Armenians at the time. Understandably, Communists at the time were simply defending the territorial integrity of the Soviet Union. As we saw later, the collapse of the Soviet Union created a new geopolitical realities in the region.



Foreign Policy: Russia’s Influence Extending in Karabakh

December, 2008

After the signing last month of the “Moscow Declaration” (by the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia) Russia’s role in Armenia’s and Karabakh’s domestic and foreign policies has become one of most fervently discussed topics here. During the past year the slant towards Russia in the policy of Karabakh authorities became obvious, while Karabakh leaders’ good feelings for Russia are obvious as well. And it’s not accidental that more and more Russia-based Armenian businessmen are attracted to Karabakh’s restoration and development. Right after President Bako Sahakyan’s coming to office in 2007, a new restaurant named ‘Rossia’ opened in Stepanakert next to a Soviet era cinema carrying the same name. Russian-Armenian businessmen, Russian experts participating in “international” conferences, sessions, discussions, became frequent guests in Karabakh. Many explain such interest in Russia by the fact that before his appointment as the Head of NKR National Security Service in 2002, Sahakyan had been working in Moscow and acquired many friends.

One of the most vivid expressions of friendship became Russia-based businessman Samvel Karapetyan’s promise to donate $15 million to the construction of a new building for Karabakh’s Republican hospital. The current hospital was built in 1935 and is no longer fit for its intended purpose. For the past decade Karabakh authorities have been trying to convince sponsors, mostly American, to allot money to the construction of a new hospital, but because it’s very costly, no progress has been made in that respect. After Sahakyan came to presidency, finally land was found to room the hospital building, digging and earthwork started, and the project was on its way. Where all the money previously collected for these purposes went, nobody knows. Instead Karapetyan has now offered to finance the whole project.

Karapetyan declared the $15 million as his donation to “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund. It was the biggest donation the Fund has ever had during the 11 years of its telethon history. Until then the record holder was Kirk Kerkorian, who promised to double the total amount of money collected during one of telethons and donated some $5 million. There are other examples of Russian philanthropy in NKR. Quite recently the Republican Children’s Hospital was put in commission in Stepanakert. It was reconstructed by financial support of Russia-based entrepreneurs. General Manager of ArmRosgazprom Karen Karapetyan was present at the opening ceremony. Twelve years after passing the Law on Languages (declaring Armenian as the state language in educational institutions), the first state school with Russian bias opened in Stepanakert. Starting September 1, classes at school N3 are held in Russian. Before 1996, 3 out of 10 schools of the capital were with Russian bias. Examples abound, added to the fact that the majority of remittances to Karabakh are from Russia, where many families having left their homeland now live.

It’s in this highlight that Russia activates its efforts in the settlement process of the Karabakh issue. The Moscow Declaration did not receive, though, a unanimous response in Karabakh. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in its comment that despite the positive impulses expressed in the item about exceptionally political means of settling the conflict, the absence of Karabakh’s signature reduces the declaration to zero. The hearsay that Russian peacekeepers would be placed in Karabakh wasn’t approved in Karabakh either, as people can still remember how Russian servicemen acted during the “Ring” mission, in the course of which 40 Armenian villages were deported.

Nonetheless, Karabakh authorities treat with awe their relations with Russia. “The fragile peace we have today is Russia’s merit, especially during the first stage that followed the signing of agreements. Naturally, we want- and we are not hiding it- Russia to wield more influence on the settlement of both our and similar conflict,” said President Sahakyan in his interview to Azat Artsakh newspaper. “Because Russia has also historical responsibility for what’s happening in the region. However, that’s a world -scale problem and countries like the USA, France, Great Britain also carry some responsibility for what’s taking place in the South Caucasus. And they are, naturally, pursuing their own interests, which is, to my mind, quite normal.”


In related news:

Russia, Armenia Seek Broader Ties - Putin

Russia and Armenia plan to take measures to bolster their bilateral cooperation, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said ahead of talks with his Armenian counterpart Tigran Sargsyan on Friday. "The results we have achieved [in our cooperation] are far from being the limit for our countries. We plan to increase our cooperation," Putin said. The overall amount of Russia's accumulated investment in the Armenian economy totals $1.6 billion, and bilateral trade grew by nearly 17% in 2007, he said. "I believe it is quite useful to expand the Armenia-based operations of major Russian companies like Gazprom, Inter RAO UES, RZHD and some banks, including VTB," the Russian prime minister said. Joint projects in areas such as the fuel and energy sector, non- ferrous metals, transport, construction, and information technologies hold great promise, Putin said. Armenia and Russia have a strategic relationship, Prime Minister Sargsyan said. Such consultations are important and useful amid the ongoing global financial crisis, he said. "We should coordinate our efforts, which will obviously make it easier for us to deal with the difficulties facing our economies today," the Armenian official said.


Russia Issues New Warning to West - December, 2008

Russia Issues New Warning to West

December, 2008

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the West against seeking to advance its interests in former Soviet republics at the expense of Russia. Lavrov told a group of foreign businessmen meeting in Moscow his country understands that the United States and Europe have legitimate interests in the region. But he said they should build ties through "legal, understandable and transparent methods," not what he called "behind the scenes meddling," which he said leads to crisis situations. The Russian minister indirectly mentioned his country's August conflict with Georgia, and repeated Russia's opposition to U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Central Europe. He said his country is counting on the future administration of Barack Obama to confirm pledges to cooperate with Russia in fighting common threats such as international terrorism and weapons proliferation. Russia calls the U.S. missile plan a threat to its security. U.S. officials say the proposal to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and radar guidance in the Czech Republic is aimed at protecting the European allies against threats from countries such as Iran.


Russia, Argentina Tout World Without US Domination

Fur hat crowns fruitful presidential talks:

The presidents of Russia and Argentina called for a world not dominated by the United States as the two countries signed deals Wednesday to cooperate in energy, agriculture and science and other areas. The agreements dealing with nuclear and conventional power, scientific research and food exports underlined Russia's growing interest in developing relations with Latin America. They come shortly after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a high-profile trip to the region. "The domination of one state, even the biggest, most powerful or most successful one, is unacceptable in any case," Medvedev said. After the signing, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez expanded on the theme, complaining how "powerful states" had forced economic and security policies onto others. "We see the results of such policy — the whole planet is paying for it," she said. Medvedev and Fernandez witnessed the signings and issued a joint statement in which they "expressed support for the multilateral approach ... in the search for peaceful resolution of intergovernmental conflicts and the new problems of forming a multipolar world," a phrase implying opposition to the United States' perceived dominance of world affairs. Their joint statement also called for peaceful resolution of the dispute between Argentina and Britain over the Falkland Islands. The two countries fought a war over the South Atlantic islands in 1982, which ended with Britain retaining control. The call said the resolution should take place "in accordance with a U.N. mandate" — referring to a 1965 U.N. resolution that called for negotiations between the two countries. Britain has rejected the call for talks, saying there is nothing to negotiate since it considers the islands British.


Russia's Trade Surplus up 51.6% to $182.8 bln in Jan.-Oct.

Russia's trade surplus grew 51.6% to $182.8 billion in January-October 2008, the Federal Customs Service said on Monday. Trade totaled $636 billion in the first 10 months of the year, up 46.3% year-on-year. Trade with non-CIS countries stood at $541.6 billion, up 46.9%, while trade with CIS states totaled $94.4, up 42.6%. Russia sold 147.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas worth $55 billion during the period. Sales to non-CIS countries stood at 131.4 billion, up 10.8%, while exports to other CIS members declined 5.4% to 13.4 billion cubic meters. Sales of crude oil to non-CIS countries fell 8.1% to 170.2 million metric tons, worth $128.3 billion. Gasoline and fuel oil sales dropped 43.8% and 6.4%, respectively to 1.55 million and 27.3 million tons. Gasoline sales to CIS countries grew 33.3% to 1.55 million metric tons worth $974 million, while fuel oil sales doubled to 2.5 million tons, worth $2.2 billion. Coal exports grew 0.41% in the reporting period to 81.2 million metric tons, while revenue from coal sales increased by 41.6% to $6.2 billion. The share of food products in Russian exports dropped from 1.7% to 1.1% in January-October. Wheat exports totaled at 8.8 million tons worth $2.3 billion, of which sales to non-CIS countries grew 20.2% to 7.9 million tons. Sales of barley dropped 40.3% year-on-year. The share of vehicles and equipment in Russian imports fell from 56.3% to 53.6% in January-October. Exports of cars and trucks grew 37.7% and 39.5%, respectively.


Russia's General Staff Announces Strategic Drills With Belarus

Russia's Defense Ministry has decided to intensify combat training in the Armed Forces and to hold joint military exercises with Belarus in 2009, the chief of Russia's General Staff said on Wednesday. "Combat training in the Russian Armed Forces will be more intensive. Next year we are planning to hold the Autumn-2009 and West-2009 strategic exercises, involving a large number of personnel from several military districts, fleets, and the Belarusian Armed Forces," Gen. Nikolai Makarov said at a meeting with foreign military attaches. Makarov admitted on Wednesday that August's five-day war with Georgia had revealed a number of serious drawbacks in the combat effectiveness of the Russian Armed Forces. He also said it had underlined the need for the country's ongoing military reform. "We had serious drawbacks in this conflict and learned a number of lessons. We will deal with them as soon as possible," Makarov said. Moscow launched a five-day military operation to "force Georgia to accept peace" after Tbilisi attacked South Ossetia on August 8 in an attempt to regain control over the republic, which split from Georgia in the early 1990s. A number of Russian peacekeepers and a reported 1,600 South Ossetian residents lost their lives during the Georgian attack. Makarov also said all future military exercises, from battalion level and higher, would be conducted on unfamiliar training grounds outside the military districts where the units are stationed.


Chechen Commander Killed in Turkey

A former Chechen separatist field commander has been killed in Istanbul, Turkish media reports. Islam Dzhanibekov was shot dead on Tuesday outside his apartment in the city, where he has been living for the past six years. Turkish newspaper Sabah cites a police source as saying that the killers used a Groza pistol, which is often associated with Russian special forces. Turkish police are investigating, but have not commented so far on the crime. In September 2008 another Chechen militant was killed with a Groza. Gadgy Adilsultanov died during a conflict over humanitarian aid being collected in Turkey for the Chechen Republic. The MSP Groza is a small, soundless pistol, developed for the KGB and GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate Of The Russian General Staff ) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This compact, non-automatic weapon is practically silent thanks to a specially designed cartridge. It’s a double-barreled gun, using 7.62 x 38 caliber ammunition. The Groza remains in the arsenal of Russia’s special services.


Main Points of Putin's Annual Q&A Session

Vladimir Putin gave yet another brilliant speech in which many important topics of concern were discussed, including the reoccurring topic of "democracy" in Russia.

My thoughts on this thing called democracy:

Democracy, in the truest sense of the word, where essentially the people govern themselves, does not exist anywhere on earth, including here in the western world. As a matter of fact, true democracy never even existed in ancient Rome nor in the Hellenic city-states, where society was essentially in the hands of a select few men. What we have in the West today is a semblance, a facade, of democracy which was only made possible by various socioeconomic circumstances resulting from the defeat of National Socialism at the end of the Second World War. In a certain sense, the limited freedoms that westerners enjoy today are a post Second World War phenomenon. However, this freedom, this semblance of democracy in the West only goes as far as the financial/political ruling elite will allow it to go.

Nonetheless, the concept of democracy today is being used as an exploitative tool by neo-imperialists to violate lesser nations around the world. For the great empires of the past, France, Spain, Portugal or Britain, the ideological/political equivalent of the modern world's democracy was - Christianity. [naturally it was Islam for the Middle Easterners] And before Christianity it was Roman culture, before Roman culture it was Hellenism...

Just like how certain Western nations are attempting to bring democracy to Third World or developing nations at the tip of a gun (because we know what's good for them) our western ancestors brought Christianity or Roman/Hellenic Culture to the Godless "savages" or "barbarians" at the tip of a sword for over two thousand years. And just like today, in final analysis, it was never about Christianity or any particular culture or political system, it was always about control, power and plunder, it was about a pretext, an excuse, to carryout self-serving political and/or economic policies of the ruling elite. And modern day colonizers are mega-corporations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Catchy political slogans and/or fervent religious rhetoric are simply meant for the masses - the sheeple that are asked to do the fighting and dying.

In the absence of Communism today, the West will try to sell its agenda against Russia as one of bringing "democracy" to a "totalitarian" [read primitive] nation...

Take the current rhetoric in the West regarding democracy and replace it with the word Christianity; take the term Third World and replace it with the term savages; take the term totalitarian and replace it with term barbarian - and you would feel as if you have been transplanted back several hundred years... Other than names and titles nothing changes in human historiography. Russia today, as well as other nations of the former Soviet Union, needs sociopolitical evolution which come with political stability and not a Western inspired revolution.

Rome was not built in a single day, so wasn't Washington DC for that matter...



Main Points of Putin's Annual Q&A Session

US infected world with crisis - Putin:

December, 2008

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a live televised question and answer session with the Russian public on Thursday, his first as premier and leader of the ruling pro-presidential United Russia party. Putin, who became the leader of the United Russia party in May after stepping down as president, held six live televised question and answer sessions as head of state. During his latest televised session held in Gostiny Dvor, an exhibition center in downtown Moscow which hosts United Russia party congresses, Putin answered 80 questions in 3 hours and 8 minutes, beating the previous record of 3 hours and 5 minutes. Russians in 13 cities and 8 regions were able to send questions for the prime minister by telephone, on line and via text messages. The Russian prime minister said:

Foreign policy

- he expects positive changes in relations between Moscow and Washington under Barack Obama, who is to be inaugurated as president in January

- progress has been reached on the two key disputes in Russia-U.S. relations - Washington's plans for a missile shield in Central Europe, and NATO's expansion plans

- Russia could reduce natural gas supplies to Ukraine if the country fails to pay its debts

- Russia is ready to do everything to develop cooperation with Ukraine but relations between Moscow and Kiev should be fair and "market-based"

- he hopes that new EU member states will understand the need to look to the future and not stick to the past in their relations with Russia

- joint work between Russia and the EU in the economic sphere will increase transparency and stability of both the Russian and European economies

- Georgia's attack on South Ossetia ended any chance the South Caucasus state had of bringing its rebel republics back under central control

- Georgians should decide themselves on punishment for the country's leadership that started the August conflict in South Ossetia

- Russia sees no need to establish permanent military bases in Venezuela or Cuba, but could use their military infrastructure

- the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to grant Russia the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will not be reviewed


- Russia has a strong chance of surviving the crisis with minimum losses

- Russian authorities will prevent sharp fluctuations in the ruble exchange rate

- there will not be a ruble devaluation

- Russia will see GDP growth of 6.8-6.9%, industrial production growth of 4.8%, and 13% inflation in 2008

- the Russian state will acquire large stakes in major companies in a bid to support them, but ruled out nationalization

- the 5 trillion rubles ($179 billion) allocated to prop up the banking sector amid the financial crisis is insufficient to stabilize the economy

- the Russian government may demand that monopolies reduce rises in tariffs

- Russia's government may demand that natural monopolies, including energy giant Gazprom and Russian Railways, reduce prices

- the Agency for Housing Mortgage Lending must provide banks with guarantees to solve the problem of mortgage payments

- Russia's government has no plans to toughen liberal regulations on currency and money flows


- extending the presidential term from four to six years is reasonable

- he will think about running for president again and make a decision by 2012

- he considers the power tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev "very effective"

- he has no plans to resign and there are no reasons for any government reshuffle

Social policy

- unemployment will grow from the current 1.7 million to 2 million, and pledged federal funds of $358 million to $1.8 billion to help tackle the problem

- labor quotas for foreign workers in Russia should be halved in 2009 amid the ongoing global financial crisis

- Russia's authorities are committed to increasing salaries and social payments

- Russia's employment services should set up special funds to provide assistance to Russians made redundant, adding that up to 50 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) is to be allocated for this purpose

- the state will pay maternity allowances for the birth of two or more children in advance next year and the money may be used to pay mortgages

- Russia's birth rate has reached around 7% in 2008, the highest for 15 years

- Russia has no plans to increase the retirement age

Armed Forces

- Russia's authorities have no plans to increase the length of military conscription, which is currently 12 months

- Russia's reforms to cut military personnel will be gradual and will not affect Russia's defense capability

Answering his last question "What does he like the best of all?" Putin said: "Russia."


Putin Addresses Key Foreign Policy Concerns in Q&A Session

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin addressed several sensitive foreign policy issues in his live question-and-answer session with the Russian public on Thursday. The session, Putin's first in his role as premier, was broadcast on state TV and radio and lasted over three hours. While the main focus was on the global financial crisis and its impact on the national economy, Putin also discussed a wide range of foreign policy areas, including relations with the United States, Russia's military role in Latin America, and the country's prickly relations with two ex-Soviet neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia. The premier said he expects relations with the United States to improve after Barack Obama takes office in January, and that Moscow has already noted "positive signals" from Obama's transition team on key disputes - Washington's missile defense plans for Europe and NATO's expansion. "As a rule, certain changes take place when power changes hands in any country, and this is particularly the case for the United States as a superpower. We hope these will be positive changes," he said. On the controversial U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe, Putin said: "We are already hearing that the need to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic needs to be reviewed." The Bush administration has claimed the planned 10 interceptor missiles and radar are necessary to counter possible strikes from "rogue" states like Iran. Russia has argued the bases would upset the strategic balance of forces in Europe and threaten national security. Putin said officials in the U.S. have indicated that Russia's interests will be given more consideration in building bilateral relations. "If these are not empty words, and if they are transformed into practical policy, our reaction will certainly be appropriate, and our American partners will immediately feel this," Putin said. He also welcomed NATO's decision on Tuesday to delay Ukraine and Georgia's admission to the Membership Action Plan (MAP), a key step for entry into the military alliance. NATO's eastward expansion since the break-up of the Soviet Union has been a major source of Russian concern.

Gas sales to the EU

Putin said Russia is committed to cooperation with the European Union, which has strengthened economic stability for both sides, and expressed hope that new EU members would stop "clinging to the past" and review their attitudes to Russia. "Our joint work will improve transparency, and enhance the reliability and stability of the Russian and European economies. We will continue to pursue this policy," he said. His remarks came after the 27-nation alliance resumed talks earlier this week on a comprehensive cooperation treaty with Russia, which was suspended over its August conflict with Georgia and despite objections from the ex-Soviet Baltic state Lithuania. Putin said the EU is Russia's largest trade partner, accounting for over 50% of trade, and highlighted their growing integration in the energy sector, pointing to European companies involved in oil and gas production in Russia, and European partners' cooperation in building new gas pipelines from Russia to Europe. Russia meets a considerable portion of Europe's energy needs, making many countries uneasy over their dependence on Kremlin-controlled supplies. Russia, in turn, has been hard hit by the global credit crunch and falling oil prices, and needs reliable consumers for its natural gas. However, Putin warned that Moscow could soon notify European natural gas consumers of cuts in supplies to Ukraine - which transits about 80% of Russia's Europe-bound gas - if the country fails to pay its gas debts on time. European countries have followed relations between the former Soviet neighbors, whose bitter gas pricing row in early 2006 led to a brief cut in supplies to Ukraine and supply shortfalls reported by some consumers in Europe. "If our partners do not fulfill agreements, we will have to reduce supplies. What else can we do?" Putin said. Russia's Gazprom last month put Ukraine's outstanding debt at $2.4 billion. Some of the funds have reportedly been repaid, but Gazprom has demanded full payment, and threatened supply cuts. However, Putin pledged efforts to improve ties with Ukraine, which he said must be fair and based on market principles, and reassured that the shift to European-level prices for gas would be gradual.

Frosty ties with Georgia

On Georgia, with which Russia fought a five-day war in August sparking fierce criticism from the West, Putin said Georgia's attack on South Ossetia ended any chance the Caucasus state had of bringing its breakaway republics back under central control. He said the offensive had forced Russia to abandon any possible support for Georgia's territorial reunification. Russia recognized South Ossetia and the other separatist republic Abkhazia as independent states two weeks after the armed conflict, prompting the EU to suspend cooperation talks and triggering calls in the U.S. for ousting Russia from the G8 club. "This was a crime committed not only against Russia and its citizens and the Ossetians, but also against the Georgians, against the country's statehood," Putin said.

Warships in Venezuela

Putin moved to allay international concerns over Russia's recent naval maneuvers in the Caribbean, saying the country sees no need to set up permanent military bases in Venezuela or Cuba, but added it could use their military infrastructure. Russian and Venezuelan warships concluded on Tuesday their joint drills widely seen as Moscow's response to the U.S.' aid to Georgia after the August conflict and its missile defense plans in Europe. Russia has denied any connection.


NATO Scuttles US Plan to Encircle Russia - December, 2008

My thoughts on the so-called missile defense shield...

The American missile defense shield is in fact an offensive shield:

By the late 1990s the Russian military was so degraded that it was nearing a dangerous point where a sudden first strike by NATO forces could disable it's nuclear deterrence. In theory, a missile shield positioned around the territory of the Russian Federation would stop the launching of any ICBMs that survived the initial strike. Thus, according to some military analysts in the West, there was a window of opportunity, a time when Russia was vulnerable to a first strike. This is how the plan to encircle Russia with anti-missile systems came into being after the fall of the Soviet Union. With Putin's rise to power, however, this window of opportunity began to shrink quite fast. But it's not fully closed yet. A significant threat to Russia still remains today and this threat is the main reason why Moscow has been for the past two years placing all its emphasis on restrengthening its nuclear deterrence.

2) The greatest long term threat to the West is not China - it's a free and independent Russia:

Most Americans have difficulty understanding this. Americans tend think that China is the gravest long term threat to American/western power without realizing that China and the West are financially codependents, they are interlocked in a economic union that neither side will jeopardize. The political establishment here in the US, however, knows full well that the only free, competitive, self-sufficient nation-state with vast natural and monetary reserves coupled with a massive nuclear arsenal is the Russian Federation. The national interests of Russia directly interferes with the global interests of the West. A truly free Russia is the number one obstacle to the West's total global hegemony.

Communism or Bolshevism, per se, was never the real problem between the East and the West just as Islamic fundamentalism or terrorism in general is not the real problem of the western world today. The real problem has always been, is and will always be - who controls the world's wealth and who sets the world's economic and political standards. Because Russia controls something like 10-20% of all natural resources on earth and can directly impact all of Eurasia, a truly free and independent Russia is considered to be the one and only long term threat/competitor that the West faces. Thus, even if Russia miraculously transformed itself into a true democracy overnight it would still be considered an enemy by the West; more precisely, as long as Russia's national interests interferes with the global agenda of the West...

Once one beings to look at global politics beyond mainstream news reports, catchy phrases and personal sentiments, all that is occurring in the world today would begin to make greater sense.



NATO Scuttles US Plan to Encircle Russia

December, 2008

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ministers in Brussels have decided to ignore the wishes of the United States and delay the admission of Georgia and the Ukraine, in effect indefinitely, in what the George W Bush administration is sheepishly trying to claim is a positive "compromise". The decision, follows the alarm which peaked among European Union member states last August over the prospect of having to go to war with Russia over an erratic leader in the Caucasus who had provoked Moscow into a reaction. The Germans have a far too deep and painful collective memory of the last war with Russia to be willing to treat the prospect as lightly as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or Washington has. The decision deepens growing fault lines across the Atlantic, and next year will be clearly more turbulent even than 2008 in terms of global geopolitics.

The Brussels decision is even more remarkable if taken as indication of Washington's diminishing power over European NATO members. The NATO Foreign Ministers meeting on December 3 issued what to the naive observer might appear a masterpiece of diplomacy. They unanimously agreed to sidestep the usual Membership Action Plan vote for Georgia and Ukraine, the first concrete step towards full membership of NATO. Instead, NATO will expand the activities of two existing bodies - the NATO-Georgia Commission and the NATO-Ukraine Commission - basically to oversee the same reforms as would have been contained in the action plan. NATO ministers also agreed in their communique to renew ties with Russia "in a conditional and graduated manner". Translated into real political language, Washington has undergone a stunning setback in its agenda of encircling Russia with NATO. Despite the fact that president-elect Obama retained Bush Administration Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and named a person to be Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who has strongly supported bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, key European NATO members, led by Germany and France, blocked what must be a unanimous membership decision.

The real reasons

The real reason for the refusal is the growing realization within European officialdom that it was Georgia's unpredictable President Mikhail Saakashvili, not Moscow, who first sent Georgian troops into the breakaway province of South Ossetia, after getting a go-ahead from Washington. On November 28, during Georgian official Parliamentary Commission testimony on the background to the August events, Saakashvili made the surprising announcement that he had indeed initiated the war. According to Saakashvili, the attack on the South Ossetian capital, which involved night shelling of residential areas with multiple rocket launcher systems, was aimed at protecting Georgian citizens. He said it was a response to Russia's "intervention" in the region. "We did start military action to take control of Tskhinvali and other unruly areas. But we took this difficult decision to fend off our territory from intervention and save the people who were dying. It was inevitable," Saakashvili said.

The Georgian president claims Russia moved tanks into South Ossetian territory before Georgia launched its attack. He said: "The issue is not about why Georgia started military action - we admit we started it. The issue is about whether there was another chance when our citizens were being killed? We tried to prevent the intervention and fought on our own territory." Saakashvili's surprising admission came only hours after the testimony of Georgia's former ambassador to Moscow, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who had testified for three hours before he was shouted down by pro-Saakashvili members of parliament. A former confidant of Saakashvili, Kitsmarishvili said Georgian officials told him in April that they planned to start a war in Abkhazia, one of two breakaway regions at issue in the war, and had received a green light from the United States government to do so. He said the Georgian government later decided to start the war in South Ossetia, the other region, and continue into Abkhazia.

He refused to name the officials who told him about planned actions in Abkhazia, as identifying them would endanger their lives. The official US line has been that they had "warned" Saakashvili against taking action in the two enclaves, where Russian peacekeepers were stationed. Kitsmarishvili's testimony in front of the parliamentary commission was shown live on Georgian television. The chairman of the commission, Paata Davitaia, said he would initiate a criminal case against Kitsmarishvili for "professional negligence". Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria, who was called on short notice to comment on Kitsmarishvili's testimony, called the allegations an "irresponsible and shameless fabrication", adding they were "either the result of a lack of information or the personal resentment of a man who has lost his job and wants to get involved in politics". Kitsmarishvili was fired in September by the president. Kitsmarishvili walked out amid the furor last week. "They don't want to listen to the truth," he told reporters. Two days later, Saakashvili proved Kitsmarishvili right.

Full spectrum dominance

As I detail at some length in my book, due out in January 2009, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order, the strategy of bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO is part of a far larger and more dangerous strategic long-term plan of Washington to ultimately encircle, confront and dismember Russia as a functioning state. Russia, even more than China, is the most formidable obstacle to a Washington-centered sole superpower, Pax Americana. Russia's understandable refusal to abandon its nuclear strike force in the face of US violations of agreements made in 1989 between the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev and then US secretary of state James Baker III, namely that NATO would not expand east to the former states of the Warsaw Pact or USSR, presents a dilemma for any plans for sole US superpower domination. The Bush presidency was a raw attempt to remedy this by brute military force. The militarization of Iraq and the Middle East oil fields was but one step. The creation of a US 'missile shield' in Poland and the Czech Republic, was another, major step.

The misnamed "missile defense shield" would in reality be an offensive capability that when installed by perhaps 2012, will put the world, especially Western Europe on a hair-trigger to nuclear war. When combined with the entry of Russian border states Georgia and Ukraine to NATO this would simply present Moscow with de facto defeat. This is not about Russia returning to old Soviet-style rule under Putin or Medvedev. It's about the ultimate survival of Russia as a nation, as Moscow rightly sees it, not about the finer points of democracy. No one in either Berlin, Paris, London nor Brussels, and certainly not in Washington, is ignorant of that reality. European NATO members are increasingly nervous about the prospect of a military confrontation with Russia. Last August's swift Russian response to act in aid of South Ossetians against the Georgian invasion sent a reality shock through Europe. Neither Germany nor France wish to admit unstable states like Georgia or Ukraine only to be forced to act militarily in their defense in event of a repeat of the madness of last August. That, simply stated, is the real, unspoken reason that Washington on December 3 in Brussels was forced to accept a face-saving compromise. The NATO membership of Georgia and Ukraine to all intent and purposes is dead. As one NATO military official stated, "NATO has lost the glue that once held it together." The statement of Rice following the NATO meeting was telling. She was forced to tell press, "... there is a long road ahead for both Georgia and Ukraine to reach those standards. The United States stands resolutely for those standards, meaning that there should be no shortcuts to membership of NATO." Rice added.

Polish motorcade shoot was 'Georgia stunt'

Further adding to the atmosphere of almost Laurel and Hardy comic farce surrounding Georgia's erratic president - who was filmed shortly after the Russian invasion in August by BBC actually swallowing and chewing on his tie - it has now emerged that an alleged shooting incident a week before the Brussels NATO meeting, which involved the motorcade of the Georgian and Polish presidents, was a staged "stunt". Special services in Warsaw say the alleged attack near the South Ossetian border was a provocation staged by the Georgians. A report by Poland's Internal Security Agency - the Agencja Bezpieczenstwa Wewnetrznego (ABW), published by the Dziennik newspaper, claims Georgia staged the incident for propaganda purposes. The incident took place on Sunday evening when Saakashvili was showing his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski the area near the border with South Ossetia. After the convoy stopped at a checkpoint, there was gunfire, which the Georgians claimed was an "attack by Russian troops".

Lech Kaczynski's personal security chief, Colonel Krzysztof Olszowiec, was accused of failing to ensure proper security for the president during his trip to Georgia and dismissed despite objections from Kaczynski, according to the Polish media. The trip to the border area with Russian-backed South Ossetia was the result of a last-minute invitation from Saakashvili, according to Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Piotr Paskowski. Initially, Warsaw blamed Russia for the incident. But now Polish security forces say it was staged by Tbilisi. Russia had strongly denied the allegations, saying Tbilisi was behind it. President Kaczynski confirmed that shooting had taken place but stopped short of blaming anyone. Russia's position has now been supported by Poland's ABW, who said "the shots fired near the cars of Georgian and Polish president were a Georgian provocation". The Polish document points out that Saakashvili kept on smiling after the first shots and his bodyguards didn't react. The report also highlights another suspicious fact, namely, that the bus carrying journalists was instructed to travel in front of the motorcade, while the car with Kaczynski's own bodyguards was pushed back by Georgian soldiers. The result was that they were not in a position to witness the alleged shooting. All-in-all, it might be Saakashvili's tenure as president that faces major internal challeges over his bent for undertaking such reckless stunts.

F William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics (Pluto Press), and the book, Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation ( His new book, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order (Third Millennium Press) is due out late January 2009. He may be reached through his website,


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