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The Newsroom => International Defence and Security => Topic started by: tomahawk6 on August 24, 2013, 18:16:16

Title: Russia in the 21st Century [Superthread]
Post by: tomahawk6 on August 24, 2013, 18:16:16
Interesting American Thinker article about Putin stepping into the power vacuum left by the US.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/08/dangerous_times_russia_rising_in_the_middle_east.html

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In the absence of American strength and reliability, all the players are turning to Russia, which is emerging:

● as a vocal defender of Christianity against Muslim persecution around the world;

● as a plausible peacemaker in the Middle East, with far better relationships with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria than America has today;

● as the monopoly natural gas supplier for Germany, with the consent of the Franco-German axis;

● as the only country with a credible a nuclear umbrella to protect its friends and deter its enemies;

● as a country that understands the value of relatively free markets -- witness the 14% flat tax Putin just introduced in Russia.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on August 24, 2013, 18:24:18
Interesting but, I think, because it is designed to convince Americans to change governments, not because it presents a credible case for a Russian turn around.

I remain convinced that Russia is a failing state, not a potential leader of even a rival for any of the America, China or India.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on August 26, 2013, 00:38:07
I'm not so sure about Russia "turning around", but they have the legacy of an "Empire", a legacy military force and a large reserve of resource wealth, so stepping into a power vacuum isn't to difficult to imagine.

It also bolster's the legitimacy of the Russian ruling elites, and serves (like most Imperial ventures) to distract the people from issues and problems at home and the "near abroad".

Historically, Europeans have been afraid more of the potential of Russia rather than the reality. Everyone was afraid of the "Russian Steamroller", but it finally came into existence only in the second half of the "Great Patriotic War" after years of being forged in the fires of real combat against the Nazis. As you yourself have pointed out on many occasions, the Red Army *we* feared during the Cold War was generally ill led, ill trained, ill disciplined and poorly equipped, and this only a few decades after their military peak. I'm sure the situation is the same today.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Target Up on August 26, 2013, 01:02:14
Not sure I'm really getting that warm fuzzy feeling from having the worlds largest Thugocracy as the go to guy in the second, third, or lost world.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Bert on August 28, 2013, 01:23:19
The article puts a comparative microscope on some aspects of US and Russian foreign policy and leadership styles of Obama and Putin.  Pushing aside critiques of Obama's application of foreign policy, any US President would be hard pressed dealing with unpayable levels of national debt and the hampered ability to project influence globally.  Other regional powers are filling the gaps.  Putin, as I recall reading from a Stratfor
article some time ago, implied he's got a short time to gain geo-economic/political influence until his "term" ends (no strong successor) and the population demographics slide.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: tomahawk6 on August 28, 2013, 11:04:55
The article puts a comparative microscope on some aspects of US and Russian foreign policy and leadership styles of Obama and Putin.  Pushing aside critiques of Obama's application of foreign policy, any US President would be hard pressed dealing with unpayable levels of national debt and the hampered ability to project influence globally.  Other regional powers are filling the gaps.  Putin, as I recall reading from a Stratfor
article some time ago, implied he's got a short time to gain geo-economic/political influence until his "term" ends (no strong successor) and the population demographics slide.

The US economy is a powerful engine if allowed to function without interference.The debt could easily be paid down,unfortunately this crowd in dc are anti-business.They also don't care for the military and will use the defense budget to foster their agenda.The latter isn't new at all.Meanwhile,as has happened before other nations will try to take advantage of our weaknesses.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: AirDet on August 28, 2013, 23:02:19
When it comes down to the dollars and cents; Russia has a GDP less than that of Italy. That mere fact limits what they can do and influence.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on August 31, 2013, 13:13:46
When it comes down to the dollars and cents; Russia has a GDP less than that of Italy. That mere fact limits what they can do and influence.

True enough, but as the saying goes:

"Capitalism is about the use of capital"

If Russia is willing to use a large fraction of its economic resources to project military and political power into what it sees as its area of interest; and if that fraction works out to be more than rival States are willing to spend to oppose it, then Russia still comes out ahead WRT its interests.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on September 06, 2013, 15:04:21
Putin uses his diplomatic, strategic and economic capital to achieve the results that he wants at the G-20 summit, as reported by Bloomberg:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-06/putin-overwhelms-obama-at-the-sulky-summit.html

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Putin Overwhelms Obama at the Sulky Summit
By Leonid Bershidsky Sep 6, 2013 10:43 AM ET

When Russian President Vladimir Putin came out to welcome world leaders to this week's G-20 summit at the Constantine Palace in Strelna, a St. Petersburg suburb, many wondered how it would go between him and U.S. President Barack Obama.

The latter had, after all, likened Putin to a bored, slouching kid at the back of the class. The Russian ex-KGB officer, eight years Obama's senior, took offense. In an interview the day before the summit, he resorted to the royal "we" when commenting on Obama's remark: "I am surprised sometimes to read about body language, about us being bored or otherwise behaving differently. Who but ourselves can say what's in our heads and our souls?"

The leaders arrived one after another in Russian-assembled Series 7 BMWs that were provided by the hosts. Putin laughed with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and spent more time talking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel than to any of his other guests. Obama was the last to appear -– in his own Cadillac.

He extended his hand as soon as he climbed out of the limousine, and Putin did the same as he walked over to meet him. The handshake was brief, just long enough for photographers to capture Obama's broad smile and Putin's more tight-lipped one.

Through most of the first day Putin and Obama avoided each other. The organizers initially wanted to seat the G20 leaders according to the Russian alphabetical order of their countries, putting only King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia between Putin and Obama, but decided at the last moment to switch to the Latin alphabet. The Russian and U.S. presidents ended up separated by five people. They didn't exchange a meaningful word.

Finally, the two stepped aside for a 20-minute conversation during the first day's dinner and reception. The talk appears to have been inconclusive.

The St. Petersburg meeting of the G-20 may well go down in history as the Sulky Summit, but also as a qualified Putin victory. "Syria: G-20 trapped by Putin," read a headline in the conservative French newspaper le Figaro.

Most of the leaders present share the Russian president's views on whether to intervene in Syria, the most divisive issue on the agenda. European Council President Herman van Rompuy, representing the European Union at the summit, said early on that -- unlike Obama and his British, French, Turkish and Canadian allies -- he did not support airstrikes. Putin even received a letter from Pope Francis, which said the search for a military solution in Syria was "futile." Like van Rompuy, Merkel wants the situation to be resolved within the framework of the United Nations, and most of the leaders of the emerging world agree.

At June's G-8 summit in Northern Ireland, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted that Putin was an outlier in the group, because of his stand on Syria: "I don't think we should fool ourselves. This is G7 plus one ... We in the West have a very different perspective on this situation. Mr. Putin and his government are supporting the thugs of the Assad regime for their own reasons that I do not think are justifiable."

Yet Putin was able to block the G-8 from issuing a statement condemning Assad and demanding his ouster -- and that was before the Obama called for air strikes to punish Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.

In St. Petersburg, Putin and Harper smiled and shook hands. The Canadian prime minister did not talk of "G-19 plus one." In the expanded format, a tough line on Assad is unpopular. Putin clearly enjoyed rubbing in the fact that a number of big, increasingly economically powerful countries did not feel the need to fall in with the U.S. line.

Putin also reveled in his role as host. It was he who cajoled Russian and foreign companies into helping to fund the $300 million refurbishment of the Constantine palace, finished in 2003. So the imperial splendor of the summit's backdrop was in part his doing. The meeting was impeccably and expensively organized, the Kremlin having splurged on a fleet of new buses and electric cars, a majestic light show at the baroque palace in Peterhof, and a further $60 million pre-summit facelift of the Constantine palace.

This being Russia, some of the expense was called into question. Dimtry Peskov, the Kremlin press secretary, said that during the first day of the summit, 1,500 people were served by the press center's restaurant, consuming 26 tons of food. "You're eating a lot," he told reporters. Journalists quickly calculated that Peskov's numbers came to 17 kilograms (37.5 pounds) of food per person.

"They must have allocated money for 26 tons of food," Elena Panfilova, head of the Russian branch of Transparency International, wrote only half-jokingly on Facebook. "Then they must have skimmed 50 percent right off and another 40 percent when they went about buying the 13 tons for which they had money left. That left them with about 7.5 tons. Then they lost another 30 percent to spillage and shrinkage during transportation and cooking. So about 5 tons was served, and I know from experience that one can put away some three kilos of canapes and sandwiches during a stressful event."

Syria aside, Obama and Harper have the same problem with Putin and his regime that many Russians do: It is transparently corrupt, Byzantine and self-serving. That, however, does not prevent it from organizing impressive international events and scoring diplomatic victories.

(Leonid Bershidsky, an editor and novelist, is a Bloomberg View contributor. He can be reached at bershidsky@gmail.com).
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on September 14, 2013, 11:40:17
This has been noted several times in the past, but so far no one has actually seemed to have taken action on this:

http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-perspective/091313-671006-stop-putin-with-shale-revolution.htm

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Gain Leverage Over Putin With Some 'Shale Diplomacy'
3 Comments
By WILLIAM F. SHUGHART II
 Posted 09/13/2013 05:26 PM ET

Dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't easy.

On the one hand he steps up as "peacemaker" in Syria, forestalling possible U.S. military action against the Assad regime for its alleged chemical-weapons atrocities.

At the same time, he reportedly is increasing sales of advanced anti-aircraft systems to Iran. And he continues to supply Assad with weapons as well.

What's the United States to do?

First, we need to sober up and recognize the source of Putin's power: petro-dollars. Half of Russia's state budget comes from foreign oil and gas revenue. So if we want leverage over Putin and his cronies, we need to break his petro piggybank.

While surging U.S. natural gas production already is applying pressure on the Russians, more can be done. Exporting U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) and spreading the shale revolution abroad offer opportunities for undercutting Putin's power.

The early shale boom stunned global energy markets and caught Russia flatfooted. Its state-owned gas company, Gazprom, was forced to renegotiate supply contracts with European customers and book billion-dollar losses.

Russia's gas exports ran up against an unlikely competitor: cheap U.S. coal, which flooded the European electricity market as U.S. electric utilities switched from coal to low-cost and abundant natural gas.

However, Gazprom has since recovered, and its profits are climbing again. Exports of Russian gas to Europe are at a three-year high. Since more than half of Gazprom's revenue comes from such exports, Putin's coffers are flush again, and he's flexing his muscles.

Exporting more of our natural gas and technological expertise would be effective ways of hitting Putin where it hurts. With major shale formations scattered across Eastern Europe, the potential is there to pull Gazprom's largest export market out from under Putin's nose.

ConocoPhillips, Shell and Chevron, among other major oil-and-gas producers, have reached deals to begin shale development in former Soviet-bloc nations. Chevron alone already has leased some 5.6 million acres of shale-rich land in Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Lithuania. More will follow.

Meanwhile, U.S. LNG exports are looming large. The Department of Energy has issued export licenses to three companies, with an eye on shipping LNG to key markets in Europe and Asia. With more than a dozen applications from other companies awaiting review, the U.S. could send Putin a strong message by immediately approving a half-dozen more.

Challenging Gazprom in Europe is just half the story. The Russians also are looking east to a huge market in Japan, which needs substitutes for nuclear power to generate electricity, following the accident at Fukushima.

Read More At Investor's Business Daily: http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-perspective/091313-671006-stop-putin-with-shale-revolution.htm#ixzz2esUUeZ1e
Follow us: @IBDinvestors on Twitter | InvestorsBusinessDaily on Facebook
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on October 11, 2013, 11:55:37
The Russians have only a limited window to acheive whatever goals they hope to reach:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/8/berman-misreading-a-russia-on-the-run/print/

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BERMAN: Misreading a Russia on the run

By Ilan Berman-The Washington Times Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Far from robust, the federation is facing implosion

Don't let Russia's recent attempts to play peacemaker on Syria fool you — U.S.-Russian relations are still on the rocks. A range of issues — from Russia's stubborn support for the Iranian regime to the Kremlin's very public snub of the White House in granting asylum to fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden — have cast a profound pall over bilateral ties. In the process, they have sounded the death knell for the vaunted "reset" of relations with Russia that President Obama made a centerpiece of his foreign-policy agenda during his first term in office.

In response, experts have taken to calling for a "strategic pause" in relations between Washington and Moscow, so that the White House can reassess exactly what is possible to achieve through outreach toward Russia. That's undoubtedly good thinking. However, Washington's reappraisal also needs to take into account the larger, more long-term threat to international security that is now posed by Russia. This is because the Russian Federation is fast approaching a massive social and political upheaval, one that promises to be as transformative as the Soviet Union's demise some two decades ago. Russia's coming crisis is driven by the convergence of three trends:

Russia is dying. The once-mighty Russian state is undergoing a catastrophic post-Soviet societal decline. Health standards are abysmal, and life expectancy in Russia is nothing like it is in the West — just age 60 for men (less than in Botswana and Madagascar) and 73 for women, roughly the same as in Saudi Arabia. Alcoholism — the scourge of Soviet society — continues to ravage the country, with a death rate among Russia's youth that is 35 times higher than among their counterparts in Europe. So does drug addiction. According to United Nations statistics, more than a fifth of all heroin consumed globally every year occurs in Russia. Prevalent, too, is a corrosive culture of abortion, with unofficial estimates placing the number of annual abortions at 2 million to 2.5 million — close to 2 percent of the Russian Federation's potential population.

In all, the country is contracting by close to half-a-million souls every year owing to both death and the emigration of its citizens (to Europe and beyond). At this rate, according to the Kremlin's own estimates, Russia could lose a quarter of its population by the middle of this century. It's a phenomenon that demographers have described as "the emptying of Russia" — a wholesale implosion of Russia's human capital, and a collapse of its prospects as a viable modern state.

Russia is also transforming. The country is experiencing a radical change in its ethnic and religious composition. Today, Russia's roughly 21 million Muslims are still a distinct minority. Comparatively robust birthrates have put Muslims on track to account for a fifth of the country's population by the end of this decade, and possibly a majority by midcentury.

Such a demographic revolution will fundamentally change Russia's character. That is not a problem, per se. In recent years, though, the Kremlin has discriminated against its Muslim minority and ignored (even abetted) the rise of corrosive xenophobia among its citizens. This has bred resentment and alienation among Russia's Muslims — sentiments that radical Islamic groups have been all too eager to exploit. The result is an increasingly restive Muslim minority that has little connection to — or love for — the Russian state.

Finally, the Chinese are coming. Over the past two decades, Russia's population east of the Ural Mountains has declined by a fifth, and now stands at some 25 million, or some six inhabitants per square mile on average. This depopulation has sharpened the strategic competition over the country's resource-rich east, which is now increasingly coveted by an energy-hungry China. In this unfolding contest, China, a rising global economic and strategic power, holds the upper hand over a declining Russia. Because it does, China could soon grow bold enough to challenge Russia for dominion over the latter's economically vital eastern territories.

This perfect storm of demographic change, religious transformation and external pressure will determine Russia's internal political climate, its place in the world, and its future strategic priorities. The economic and social indicators are unmistakable: The Russia of tomorrow will look radically different than that of today.

As they set about rethinking their approach to Russia, policymakers in Washington would be wise to understand this reality. They would be even wiser to begin planning for it.

Ilan Berman is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council. He is the author of "Implosion: The End of Russia and What It Means for America" (Regnery, 2013).

© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/8/berman-misreading-a-russia-on-the-run/#ixzz2hQOlfxje
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on October 25, 2013, 19:01:13
And more on the decline of Russia. In the long run, a power vacuum in the Eurasian heartland will cause a long period of instability from Europe to China, and affect everyone else as well:

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/10/23/moldova-looks-to-europe-as-russian-influence-declines-throughout-region/

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Moldova Looks to Europe as Russian Influence Declines Throughout Region
NocolaeTimofti

Add Moldova to the list of countries shunning Russian attempts to establish a customs union to rival Europe’s. And Moscow, appearing increasingly weak in its near-abroad, is furious.

Larger and more prosperous countries like Ukraine and Belarus are well on their way to choosing Europe over Russia, despite relentless Russian strong-arming. Armenia looked set to join them last month before its President abruptly gave in to Russian pressure and joined the Moscow-sponsored Eurasian Customs Union over the EU’s Eastern Partnership program.

Now it’s Moldova’s turn to choose. After decades of dependence on Russia and the Soviet Union before it, the tiny republic, by far the poorest on the continent, seems to be heading Europe’s way. Its move westward has provoked the usual warnings and threats from Russian leaders. “We hope that you will not freeze,” Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister said, suggesting Moscow would shut down the pipelines that send Russian gas to the energy-starved country. Not long after that, Russian officials, citing vague health concerns, stopped imports of Moldovan wine, which make up a huge percentage of the country’s exports. There have also been warnings that the tens of thousands of Moldovans working in Russia would be expelled.

“Rather than intimidating leaders of the country’s fragile coalition government, however, Russia’s tactics have only cemented their resolve to complete the political and free trade agreements with the European Union,” the New York Times reported today. “The signing of these agreements,” said the Moldovan president, “is the only chance that Moldova has in order to develop itself as a European country and in the European spirit.”

Within Moldova, not everyone is pleased about joining the EU. The Communist Party is strong there and is already agitating to bring down the pro-Europe ruling coalition. But many of the country’s businesspeople prefer Europe, a market of 500 million people, to Russia, where politics frequently get in the way of stable business and government. “We want to be treated by our bigger partners, if not equally, at least with respect,” a deputy foreign minister told the Times.

Though Moldova is a tiny country and only marginally important to Eurasian politics, its decision to pursue deeper integration with Europe is another sign of Russia’s declining influence in its near-abroad.

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Hey, just because Vlad was able to roll Barry on Syria doesn’t mean he’s winning everywhere
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on October 28, 2013, 13:10:53
I have never been to Russia, but I often wish I had. It might be very interesting to see the place first hand.

Failing that, I fall back on what I've read and seen on the media over the years, and what I've gathered from folks who have served in Russia or visited there with the CF, including fairly recently. I've served alongside Russians but it was only a small group, and only for six months.

My general impression is that Russia is a turd cake covered in bright shiny icing. While it certainly has lots of resources, and it can actually produce some pretty impressive pieces of kit from time to time, I think that politically, societally and physically it is dysfunctional and sick. Putin is popular, IMHO, because he appeals to a deep seated Russian comfort with being ruled with an iron fist, and not to have to think too much about anything. He benefits from the xenophobia and cultural arrogance that, again IMHO, seem to be salient characteristics of Russian society.

I can't imagine democracy (at least of the sort any of us would regard as credible) ever taking root in such a place, any more than it would in China. But I doubt that most Russians care, much.

The terms that come to my mind are backwardness, corruption, brutality and ignorance. Now, combine those with lots of petro dollars and a still fairly impressive military, and you get a very nasty and still possibly quite dangerous player on the world stage.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Colin P on October 28, 2013, 13:45:36
I was reading somewhere that Russia's population curve had bottomed out and stabilized. to be honest haven't had the time to look into that rather important bit of info. 
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on October 29, 2013, 02:12:00
I've read a similar article in the last year. It claimed that Russia had overcome its demographic nosedive and was actually close to achieving a birth rate well in excess of most EU countries. (Whi h may not be saying much considering their sclerotic growth rates, but would still be an improvement). I don't recall seeing anything else on this, so I'm not sure about the credibility.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on October 29, 2013, 23:46:46
Sorry folks, but the CIA World Fact Book says different:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rs.html

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Population growth rate:

-0.02% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 199
Birth rate:

12.11 births/1,000 population (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165
Death rate:

13.97 deaths/1,000 population (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10

While the cause of this has been debated for many years, the effect are quite clear. The one possible saftey valve the Russians may have is to attract ethnic Russians back to Russia from the "Near Abroad" (former Soviet territories), although for many ethnic Russians living outside Russia, it is hard to imagine what sort of incentives would work. Trade a relatively bleak existence for an extremely bleak one?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on October 30, 2013, 08:30:07
Sorry folks, but the CIA World Fact Book says different..

Nothing to be sorry about!!

Hopefully Russia's decline and eventual implosion will not send tremors through the geopolitical space around it, but that is probably wishful thinking.

A scary thought would be an increasingly desperate "backs against the wall" Russia that embarks on some more bullying adventures to revive the glory days,  make itself feel better and keep the home folks quiet. Kind of a bloody version of "bread and circuses".

Nothing quite as dangerous and unpredictable as a dying monster.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on October 30, 2013, 14:47:59
Sorry folks, but the CIA World Fact Book says different:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rs.html

While the cause of this has been debated for many years, the effect are quite clear. The one possible saftey valve the Russians may have is to attract ethnic Russians back to Russia from the "Near Abroad" (former Soviet territories), although for many ethnic Russians living outside Russia, it is hard to imagine what sort of incentives would work. Trade a relatively bleak existence for an extremely bleak one?
The *birth rate* in Russia has exceeded that of the USA.  Of course, this only talks of live births, not the population decline.  And the situation in Russia has improved.  The 0.02% decline is of one year. 
Check out the "population pyramid"

(https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/graphics/population/RS_popgraph%202013.bmp)

Note how there are more Russians who are 0-4 than 5-9, and how they in turn outnumber those 10-14. 


And again note how there are *fewer* of those 10-14 than 15-19, and how much less of them there are between 20-24.  And on.  In short, *something* happened around 10 years or so ago that saw their birth rate increase.


Also, you can see the history of WW2 in the pyramid.  With the war ending almost 70 years ago, those "vets" of ~90 years age and male are outnumbered, vastly, by the females of the similar age.  (Yes, I also acknowledge that women, by and large, live longer than men)


For comparison, here is the USA's population pyramid:

(https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/graphics/population/US_popgraph%202013.bmp)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Colin P on October 30, 2013, 16:20:33
It seems the West faces a "Cougar gap"

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the Russians birthrate by region/ethnicity/religion.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on October 30, 2013, 22:55:25
Very interesting, if a bit strange. We still have the CIA World Fact Book figues showing deaths outnumbering births, so someone's figures are not adding up somewhere.

Overall, I'm still seeing Russia as being able to make a presence on the world stage in limited areas and at great expense, while still suffering an overall decline in fortunes. How this demographic "wave" will change things is hard to predict, young Russians growing up in a State in relative decline (and one that is declining from an already low starting point) will have lots to be angry about but few resources to apply to potential solutions.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on November 02, 2013, 14:34:11
Actually, getting into space is easy (the WWII era V2 brushed the edge of space), staying in space is difficult because of the need for a vast amount of speed (@ Mach 25 to hit orbital velocity). These Soviet era ASATS and their modern descendants are very sophisticated, but shooting a sounding rocket straight up in the path of a satelite and releasing a bucket of ball bearings will also do the job. Interestig to see how far back the roots of space warfare really go.

As a counterpoint, the US X-37 spaceplane may well have been designed with these things in mind, having a very large reserve of fuel and the ability to make large changes in orbital parameters, as well as remain in space for extended periods of time before returnign to Earth:

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/satellites/the-hidden-history-of-the-soviet-satellite-killer-16108970?click=pm_news

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The Hidden History of the Soviet Satellite-Killer

As soon as the Space Age got under way, the Soviet Union was trying to build antisatellite weapons—and kept trying for decades.
By Anatoly Zak

RussianSpaceWeb
November 1, 2013 11:32 AM

Half a century ago, on Nov. 1, 1963, the Soviet Union launched the first prototype of the "killer" satellite—what we would call today an antisatellite system, or ASAT. Officially announced as Polyot-1 (or Flight-1), this highly maneuverable spacecraft was intended to test whether the Soviets could approach an "enemy" satellite and blow it in smithereens. This mission set off a decades-long race to develop and deploy offensive weapons in space that culminated in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan's famous Star Wars program.

Although a nuclear standoff between East and West subsided soon thereafter and the Cold War thawed, the danger of weaponization of space flared up again recently with the emergence of new space powers, such as China and Iran.

With the world dependent more than ever on satellites for communications, navigation, and other daily needs, the very possibility of orbital warfare could trigger a domino effect of costly measures and countermeasures—as the history of the Soviet killer satellite effort vividly illustrates.

Origin of the Soviet Satellite-Killer

The Space Age had hardly begun when Soviet engineers were already busy drawing blueprints of satellite killers. Following the famed 1960 Soviet shoot-down of an American U-2 spy plane, Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev was determined to do the same with the emerging "threat" from spy satellites, particularly the American Satellite Interceptor, or SAINT project, developed at the end of the 1950s and publicly disclosed in 1960.

Like their American counterparts, Soviet engineers initially considered piloted space fighters armed with missiles. Prominent leaders of the Soviet aviation industry including Vladimir Myasishev and, later, Vladimir Chelomei proposed orbital space planes, but their ideas were too far-fetched for that era. In the interim, the USSR settled on a remotely controlled robotic spacecraft.

The father of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolev, pushed for his flight-proven R-7 ICBM to carry an interceptor that would be sent on an exact collision course with its target. However, Chelomei argued for a self-guided orbital vehicle that would enter the proximity of an enemy satellite, explode, and pierce its target with shrapnel.

In 1960, the Kremlin chose Chelomei's concept. Dubbed Istrebitel Sputnikov (for the Satellite Destroyer), the barrel-shaped spacecraft would sport 17 thrusters to make any conceivable maneuver in orbit. It would be supported by a complex network of ground stations spread over several time zones across the Soviet Union for tracking enemy satellites and guiding the killer to its target. The top-secret command post for the system was located in the Moscow suburb of Noginsk. A pair of guidance stations were deployed in the Siberian town of Irkutsk and near Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan.

By 1962, while Soviet newspaper headlines proclaimed the great successes of cosmonauts and called for peaceful exploration of space, the USSR was focusing much of its space effort on a killer satellite. According to Vladimir Polyachenko, a leading engineer in the IS project, Chelomei led daily meetings on the status of its development. On February 11, 1963, the Kremlin leadership, including Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, appeared in Moscow's suburb of Fili, where Chelmei's engineers labored on the first killer satellite. Polyachenko showed Khrushchev a huge terrestrial globe covered by a web of blinking satellite orbits designed to illustrate how the interceptor would work. Khrushchev liked what he saw.

After the successful first launch in November 1963, clandestine flight tests of Soviet killer satellites continued for most of the 1960s. Exactly 45 years ago, on Nov. 1, 1968, the USSR succeeded with an actual intercept and the destruction of a specially designed target satellite in orbit. However, it would take another five years before the antisatellite system entered experimental service, and another whole decade before it was fully operational. By 1978, a converted R-36 ICBM topped with the IS interceptor reportedly could be rolled out to the launchpad from its bunker in Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, propped into vertical position, loaded with propellants, and blasted off toward its target in just an hour and a half.

But on August 18, 1983, the Soviet leader Yuri Andropov suddenly declared an end to the tests, apparently as a gesture of goodwill in the midst of the escalating Cold War. Yet behind the scenes, engineers continued working on further improvements to the operational killer satellites, as well as on much bigger and frightening projects—frightening plans to employ orbital battle stations and even laser weapons.

The upgraded antisatellite system, code-named IS-MU, was capable of chasing enemy satellites even if they tried avoidance maneuvers. It was declared operational in 1991. Just two years later, though, as the Cold War wound down, the cash-strapped government led by the Russian president Boris Yeltsin pulled the plug on the system. Around the same time, the first photo showing the IS satellite was finally published, taking the official veil of secrecy off the project.

New Generation of Russian Killer-Satellites

After more than a decade-long hiatus, the Russian antisatellite program showed signs of life again in the 2000s , as the United States and China vividly, even if unofficially, had demonstrated their capability to attack and destroy satellites in space. No longer toying with the ideas of expensive and vulnerable battle stations in orbit, the Russian military banked on converted ballistic missiles placed in well-protected silos and equipped with maneuverable satellites capable of sending missiles on a collision course with enemy satellites at a minute's notice.

In March 2009, then deputy minister of defense Vladimir Popovkin told journalists that Russia had "retained basic assets" in Naryad-VN and Naryad-VR (or Sentry) systems. "We can't sit and watch others do it. I can only say similar works are done in Russia too," Popovkin said. Popovkin did not elaborate as to what Naryad-V was all about. However, a number of Russian sources recently shed some light on its design.

The Naryad-V, which apparently also has the military designation 14F11, consists of an orbital space tug, whose civilian version is known today as Briz-K (Breeze). Its engine can fire up to 75 times during one mission. This highly maneuverable rocket stage serves as a launch platform for multiple missiles developed at a highly classified KB Tochmash design bureau. Each missile initially receives guidance from its orbital launch platform and homes in on its target with the help of powerful thrusters facing in four different directions. The missile's warhead, developed at KB Geofizika in Moscow, eventually locks onto its target, and the missile's own minicomputer takes over the flight control.

The Naryad-V spacecraft is launched by a lightweight Rockot booster, which is converted from the UR-100NU ballistic missile, once the most numerous ICBM in the Soviet nuclear force. As a space launcher, Rockot can place under 2 tons of cargo into orbit.

In the waning days of the USSR, Rockot flew two suborbital test missions with prototypes of the Naryad-V spacecraft. In 1994, the third test vehicle actually made it into orbit, before the missile's firing crew in Baikonur was finally disbanded in the wake of the Soviet collapse.

The Rockot did survive the economic turmoil of the 1990s, in part thanks to a joint European–Russian commercial venture aimed to haul lightweight foreign satellites into orbit from the Russian military launch site in Plesetsk. In 2002, when President Vladimir Putin visited Khrunichev space center in Moscow, which built both Naryad-V and Rockot, the company's leaders reportedly assured him that the antisatellite system had been ready for a revival.

In January 2010, the commander of the Russian space forces, Oleg Ostapenko, told the official ITAR-TASS news agency that Russia would be able to respond to threats from space. "The USSR was developing inspection and strike spacecraft," Ostapenko said. "Our policy—there should be no war in space, but we are military people and should be ready for everything. Our activities in this direction would be dependent on others, but, trust me, we would be able to respond quickly and adequately."

After half a century of roller-coaster rides for one of the most controversial developments in space, the world still faces a considerable probability of satellites blowing each other up in space. Not coincidentally, far below the Earth orbit, in the atmosphere, remotely controlled flying robots capable of shooting missiles at targets on the ground had already become a reality.

Anatoly Zak is the editor of RussianSpaceWeb.com and the author of Russia in Space: The Past Explained, The Future Explored.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on November 20, 2013, 20:09:17
Russia's economy is in far worse shape than perhaps anyone realized. This should put the brakes on further adventurism in the Middle East and other places, while new developments in offshore gas exploration, fracking and oil shale put pressure on Russia's main source of revenues. In the much longer term, Russia will be forced to retreat back to the European Russian "heartland", with its Easternmost boundary at the Urals and most of her attention focused on the "Near Beyond" as a huge non Russian demographic wave threatens from the South and the East becomes too expensive in terms of manpower and resources to maintain a hold on. This is a prediction for the 2100's:

http://pjmedia.com/blog/putinomics-has-the-russian-economy-in-a-tailspin/?print=1

Quote
‘Putinomics’ Has the Russian Economy in a Tailspin
Posted By Kim Zigfeld On November 20, 2013 @ 12:28 am In economy,Europe,Money,Politics,Russia,World News | 13 Comments

The bad economic news has rolled over Russia this month in a manner as devastating in a financial sense as the tsunami that struck the Philippines was in the physical. No matter where you turned, if you were a Russian there was only a gigantic wave of red ink rushing at you full speed.

In a move some called unprecedented [1] in Russian history, Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev openly admitted that over the next fifteen years the Kremlin expects Russian economic growth to be over 25% less than the world average, with the result that by 2030 Russia’s share of the world economy will have declined by at least a stunning 15%, from 4% today  to just 3.4% fifteen years from now.

The stunned editors of the leading Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta stated in an editorial: “Neither the tzars, nor the Bolsheviks, nor the statists ever once told the population that their country did not have greater prospects.” It was jarring indeed to realize that things might be so bad that not even the Kremlin would take the chance of lying about them.

In other words, the days of Vladimir Putin strutting about the world stage boasting of his economic achievements have come to an abrupt and ignominious end.

Then came the Economist magazine, with a hard-hitting feature item on the collapse of Putinomics provocatively titled “The Crumbling Kremlin [2].”  The piece almost seemed to be mocking Putin, the former KGB spy, taunting [3] him with the dreaded word “stagnation” that wrought so much despair in Soviet times.

The magazine’s data show that the Russian economy never recovered from the 2009 global economic meltdown. Its post-crisis growth level is consistently a pale shadow of what it knew before.  The magazine shows that Russia experienced nearly $50 billion in capital flight in just the first three quarters of this year alone, and posits that Russia is facing a collapse of a state pension system which it can no longer afford to fund.

And worst of all it notes: “The oil price at which Russia can finance budgeted spending without borrowing has increased from just $34 a barrel in 2007 to above $100 for the years ahead.”

Putin’s country stands totally at the mercy, in other words, of a world oil price over which it has no control.  Ironically, Putin’s main foreign policy objective seems to be undermining the economies of the West, a policy which if successful would only lead to reduced demand for oil with brutal consequences for Russia.

Already beleaguered by illness of every kind imaginable, including a horrific AIDS crisis, Putin’s Russia is not prepared to sustain the type of draconian cuts to pensions and social services that are clearly now in the offing.  A major demographic debacle is inevitable.

Finally, the boot was put in by the financial consulting firm Z/Yen, which annually prepares a listing of world cities [4] ranked by their financial clout.  In 2011 Z/Yen put Moscow at #61 on its list of about 80 major metropolises. Pretty feeble stuff.  But for wretched Moscow, now it’s the good old days.  The 2013 study places Moscow #69, after falling to #64 in 2012.  Despite Putin’s bold pronouncements that Moscow would soon become a leading financial center, backed up by massive skyscraper construction projects, the capital city is going backwards not forwards.  One Western banker working there told the New York Times [5]: “Moscow was never going to be an international financial center. That was a joke.”

The tone in all this adverse reporting is crystal clear:  The neo-Soviet arrogance and even petulance which Putin has adopted towards the outside world was not just unjustified, it was fraudulent.  Putin benefited from the accidental spiking of the price of oil and a temporary uptick in childbirth, neither of which had anything at all to do with his policies. Now, the neo-Soviet chickens have come home to roost. The world now sees Putin’s Russia for what it truly is, like the infamous emperor without his “new clothes [6],” and the world is jeering.

A good case study for understanding the sorry plight of the Putin economy is tourism.  Putin’s English-language propaganda screed Russia Beyond the Headlines recently touted [7] a UN report showing that Russia was in ninth place worldwide for visitation by tourists. But as is so typical for RBTH, one of the worst sources of information about Russia that there is, the real story, extremely negative for Russia, was left out of its pages.

Russia does not rank anywhere remotely close to the top 10 when it comes to receipt of tourist dollars.  It had a paltry $12 billion [8] in tourist receipts compared a whopping $30 billion by Australia, which rounds out the top 10 list (the USA tops the list with $125 billion in tourist receipts, ten times more than Russia has and five times more per capita).

The reason for this is simple:  The “tourists” who visit Russia have little or no money, mostly coming from the impoverished nations of the former USSR.  When it comes to competing for the attention of sophisticated tourists who do have money and the PR clout that goes with it, clout that might influence international attitudes towards Russia, Russia doesn’t compete, it simply fails.

This is confirmed by the World Economic Forum [8], whose most recent data show that Russia ranks an anemic #63 in tourism competitiveness.  Sophisticated tourists are going to tend to shy away from the horrific issues that plague Russian society, from rudeness to corruption to illness and safety risks. And without genius-level marketing, they’re not going to find Russia’s relatively modest attractions very beguiling.

But Putin’s response to all this will be the RBTH response:  deception and diversion.  He will not seek reform, but he will put a great deal of energy, just as in Soviet times, into creating the illusion of success and liquidating anyone within Russia who tries to tell a different story.

Article printed from PJ Media: http://pjmedia.com

URL to article: http://pjmedia.com/blog/putinomics-has-the-russian-economy-in-a-tailspin/

URLs in this post:

[1] unprecedented: http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/11/window-on-eurasia-will-russians-react.html
[2] The Crumbling Kremlin: http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/11/russias-economy
[3] taunting: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21589455-will-stagnating-economy-bring-about-much-needed-structural-reform-s-word
[4] listing of world cities: http://dyingrussia.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/moscow-in-financial-free-fall-under-putin/
[5] New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/business/global/moscow-tries-to-remake-itself-as-financial-center.html?_r=1&
[6] new clothes: http://en.ria.ru/photolents/20131113/184683984_6/Putin-Earns-Honorary-Grandmaster-Title-in-Taekwondo.html
[7] touted: http://rbth.ru/international/2013/11/07/russia_enters_list_of_top_10_travel_destinations_31503.html
[8] $12 billion: http://dtxtq4w60xqpw.cloudfront.net/sites/all/files/pdf/unwto_highlights13_en_lr_0.pdf
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on November 29, 2013, 19:32:54
The Ukraine sits at the intersection between Russia and Europe. It looks like they are trying to play both sides against the middle, but for now, it is still a small nation caught between a large federation on one side and a jealous, much larger nation on the other. (The Ukraine may be natrually divided between a Catholic "European" Ukraine west of the Dnieper, and an Orthodox, Slavic Ukraine east of the Dnieper, which makes the position of the country even more difficult):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-echochambers-25128329

Yanukovych's Ukrainian calculus: Power at all costs
Nataliya Jensen
 
BBC Ukranian Service
 
Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in Kiev to protest Ukraine's decision to back away from an EU agreement
On the eve of the European Union (EU) summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 28-29 November, Europeans said the door is still open for Ukraine to sign a historic agreement with the EU.

Kiev, meanwhile, is putting the signing on hold and asking for financial compensation from the EU for trade losses due to economic pressure from Russia.

In August, three months before a scheduled deal-signing with the EU, Russia stopped all Ukrainian imports. Seventy-five percent of Ukraine's machine-building production is exported to Russia. Experts say the losses from Moscow's actions could cost up to $2.5bn (£1.53bn) for just the second half of 2013.

"As soon as we reach a level that is comfortable for us, when it meets our interests, when we agree on normal terms, then we will talk about signing," President Viktor Yanukovych told Ukraine's TV channels on Tuesday. He said that he is still planning to go to the summit to explain Ukraine's position.

In Mr Yanukovych's mind, at least, he may not have closed the door on joining the EU. Many observers were surprised by the news that he told Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in a telephone conversation last week that Russian economic pressure and blackmail is the reason that Kiev cannot sign the agreement.

Every Ukrainian president since the fall of the Soviet Union has found himself on a complicated geopolitical chessboard between East and West. Each has had to decide how to balance and where to lead the second-largest country in Europe - toward Brussels, which is likely to be the best guarantor of Ukraine's long-term economic prosperity and political development, or toward Moscow, to which Ukraine has cultural and historical ties.

While Ukraine's Baltic and Central European neighbours fully realised their ambition to be in the EU, Belarus sought close ties with Russia. Ukraine, by contrast, has still not made its choice. It remains a country on hold.

Its refusal to sign the agreement (combined with departure of President Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia) likely means the end of the dream of many Western policymakers of a Europe whole and free. It also probably will encourage the Kremlin more assertively to reintegrate the former Soviet space under Russian authoritarian rule, as many in Kremlin believe Europe is in decline and US power around the world is in retreat.

Yanukovych is less afraid of Brussels than of Moscow, one commentator has said "The US always believed that democratic freedoms are universal values and events that happen in Europe influence us," said Kurt Volker, former US ambassador to Nato and now executive director of the McCain Institute of International Leadership in Washington DC. "Ukraine is a part of Europe, and it's important not to allow those who want to separate Ukraine from it to do this."

Ariel Cohen from the Heritage Foundation writes: "It is in the national interest of the United States to prevent Ukraine from becoming a Russian satellite and a key member of a Moscow-dominated sphere of influence. Ukraine is more democratically oriented than Russia. Historically, it has closer ties with Europe; and geopolitically, it can provide a necessary check on Russia's imperial ambitions."

There are several conclusions we can draw from the current status of the EU-Ukraine negotiations:

-Ukrainian leadership may not yet be ready either to democratise the country or integrate Ukraine into European economic and security institutions. However, the Ukrainian population - even in the Russian-speaking east of the country - is increasingly supportive of Ukraine joining the EU.

-Mr Yanukovych, who is supported by less than half the population, wants to ensure he stays in power. Many Ukrainian experts believe that he tried to play off Russia and the EU in order to maximise his chances of re-election in 2015. To achieve this he needs either a successful agreement with the EU, which would broaden his political base, or Russian President Vladimir Putin's help in consolidating his authoritarian rule.

-While Ukraine has for now picked the short-term benefits of improving trade ties with Russia over the long-term benefits of association with Brussels, it still refuses to join Mr Putin's Customs Union, which could lead to further integration with Moscow.

Serhiy Rahmanin of the Ukrainian newspaper Mirror Weekly writes: "Yanukovych is less scared of Brussels than [of] Moscow." Mr Putin wants to build a new USSR, he contends, which would cost Mr Yanukovych real power.

For now Mr Yanukovych will attend the Vilnius gathering this week, where he hopes to discuss possible "three-way consultations" among Ukraine, the EU and Russia, and conduct talks that would be "in the best interests of Ukraine".

Whether EU representatives are prepared to listen after months of frustrating negotiations is another matter.
[/quote]
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on November 29, 2013, 20:06:58
How Putin benefits from Ukraine's backing away from the EU...

Reuters (http://ca.news.yahoo.com/ukraine-holds-key-putins-dream-union-124630305--business.html)

Quote
Ukraine holds key to Putin's dream of a new union
Reuters
By Timothy Heritage


MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukraine's refusal to sign a trade pact drawing it into Europe's orbit marked a victory for Vladimir Putin,  winning him time to lure Kiev into a project for a trade and political bloc stretching from the frontiers of China to the edge of the EU.

The Russian president sees his "Eurasian Union", in which Ukraine would play a central role, as a future rival to China, the United States and the European Union. Some say he sees it as the president's personal political legacy - a strong force emerging from the ashes of the old Soviet Union.

"The Eurasian Union is a very important project for Putin. Without Ukraine, he will lose all enthusiasm for it," said Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin spin doctor who has also worked in Ukraine. "Without Ukraine, Putin's project is impossible."

Putin also hopes to woo several other former Soviet republics that were being courted by EU leaders at a summit in Lithuania on Friday. But none is more important to Putin than Ukraine, a huge market and the cradle of Russian civilization.

(...)


Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Brad Sallows on November 30, 2013, 14:45:39
In surprising news, a European country with a long history of being a regional power and occasional global power wishes to continue doing so.  Film at 11.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on December 04, 2013, 01:48:15
How this ends will have long term implications for Russia's ability to remain relevant. Attempting to stand between the EU and Russia is not tenable. If the Ukraine moves to Russia, it strenthens Russian power for a generation, while if the protestors are successful and move to the EU, it will weaken Russia far more than most people probably realize (looking upthread at Russian economic statistics and the questions about Russian demographics don't put them in a good place):

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2013/1203/Is-Ukraine-s-unrest-a-new-Orange-Revolution-in-the-making-video

Quote
Is Ukraine's unrest a new Orange Revolution in the making? (+video)
Despite parallels to 2004's peaceful democratic revolution, the current upheaval in Kiev is unlikely to settle the EU-Russia tug-of-war over Ukraine.

By Monika Rębała, Contributor, Michał Kacewicz, Contributor / December 3, 2013

WARSAW; AND KIEV, UKRAINE
As protesters dig in to Kiev's Independence Square, establishing barricades of cars, bringing in television monitors, and erecting a small tent city in the heart of Ukraine's pro-European Union demonstrations, there is much talk of forcing the government to change – indeed, of revolution.

With Ukraine's president out of the country and his opponents still boiling with anger, the country's political tensions appeared mired in a standoff as large protest rallies showed no sign of letting up. The opposition lost its attempt to topple the government by parliamentary means when a vote of no-confidence they called failed by a sizeable margin. Protest leaders, however disappointed, vowed to continue their demonstrations. Soon after the vote, about 5,000 protesters gathered outside the presidential administration building, then moved to the capital's central Independence Square, where the crowd grew to more than 10,000, according to police estimates. The opposition called for the parliamentary vote in protest both of President Viktor Yanukovych's shelving of a long-anticipated agreement to deepen political and economic ties with the European Union, and the violent tactics used by police to disperse demonstrators protesting that decision.

"There is no way back," says Volodymyr Sherstiuk of the Ukrainian folk-rock group Kozak System, one of several bands playing on the scene. “People are united and will stay here as long as they have to."

But despite the transformation over the weekend – from simple protest against the government's decision not to sign an association agreement with the EU last week, to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians calling for the government and president to step down – experts say that current events in Ukraine are not a replay of Ukraine's Orange Revolution.

Though the protests have similarities to the 2004 demonstrations that knocked Ukraine out of Russia's orbit, their outcome is likely to be far less radical, as President Viktor Yanukovych tries to wait out protesters and thread the needle to placate both pro-European forces and Russia.

Revolutionary mood

The current protests are made up of young people who are too young to remember the Orange Revolution, and are still learning how to organize protests. But the 2004 revolution remains a touchstone for their efforts against the government.

“If we don't defeat them, we will have no future here,” says Oleg, one of the young activists at the square.

“I don't belong to any party, I came here to fight with police” in response to their weekend attack on protesters, he adds. “During the Orange Revolution it was different, then there was no aggression. Now people are very angry.”

That anger was fed by the Ukrainian opposition’s failed no-confidence vote earlier in the day, which protesters had hoped would oust Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s cabinet. But the opposition fell 40 votes short of the mark.

“We've stood here in freezing weather for a few days, and politicians, as usual, let us down,” says Tatiana Marchenk, a student in Kiev.

A different Ukraine

But despite the mood on the streets, analysts say, these protests will not follow the same arc as 2004.

“It's not a second Orange Revolution,” says Pawel Kowal, a chairman of the European Parliament delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee. "It's hard to compare protests in 2004 with what is happening today at [Independence Square] in Kiev."

“The Orange Revolution was a middle-class revolution, was organized by the opposition, and had strong leaders: Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko. Today, those on the streets are mainly young people and students who gathered there spontaneously to protest against Yanukovych and his government,” Mr. Kowal adds.

At the same time, Mr. Yanukovych's political support among Ukraine's southern and eastern regions, which are more pro-Russia, may be ebbing. Though the country's Russian-speaking regions are unhappy about integration with the EU, those regions are not coming out for Yanukovych the way they did during the Orange Revolution.

“Yanukovych is losing active support – during the Orange Revolution we saw many people on the streets in the eastern part of the country," particularly in his native, industrial region of Donetsk,” says Ievgen Vorobiov, a Ukrainian analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw." But today, this is a very rare sight."

“Many people are disappointed with him," says Rostyslav Kramar, a political analyst at the University of Warsaw and a Ukrainian. "He promised a lot but economic and social conditions didn't improve during his presidency, thousands or even millions of Ukrainians have been forced to look for jobs abroad.”

Even Yanukovych's party is not a monolith now – a few people left the party since the protests began. The governor of Donetsk has backed protesters in Kiev. And students from Donetsk wrote a public letter in the Ukrainian language to students in Lviv – a major city in pro-EU western Ukraine – in which they proclaimed their desire to walk through the EU's doors with their western peers. These kind of gestures would have been hard to imagine during the Orange Revolution, says Dr. Kramar.

Yanukovych's next move

The EU has emphasized that its door remains open to Ukraine, and that Yanukovych is welcome to sign the agreement at a planned EU-Ukraine summit in the spring. But “he has to act more quickly, if he wants to be ready on time," warns Kowal. "In the latter half of the next year it will be too late, because we will have elections for the European Parliament" – pulling the EU's focus away from Ukraine – "and in 2015 Ukrainians will choose a new president,” further delaying a deal.

Kramar says the most likely scenario is that Yanukovych will stay in power, but his prime minister, Mr. Azorov, will be forced to resign. “Yanukovych's main goal is to win elections in 2015. He will do everything to achieve this goal, even sacrifice his ministers and impose Russian standards in Ukraine, if that will help him to win an electoral contest.”

Yanukovych has already started his campaign, Mr. Vorobiov says, pointing to the president's decision to travel to China today despite the situation in Kiev. "He wants to show that nothing serious is really happening and everything is under control.”

Kramar thinks that in the coming months the protests in Ukraine will lose momentum. “People can't protest on the street forever, the winter is coming and so are the holidays. I'm afraid that the opposition will lose some power and vigor, and Yanukovych will play for time. He won't impose any radical changes and reforms in the country.”

And Yanukovych will likely try to keep his options open with both the EU and Russia, Vorobiov adds. “Yanukovych will go to Brussels soon and probably promise to sign some kind of agreement with the EU to neutralize the opposition," and “later he will visit Moscow and try to negotiate better trade arrangements with Putin.”

Escalation?

And while some protesters have taken to calling the president "bloody Viktor" after the police's violent attacks over the weekend, experts say that it doesn't seem that Yanukovych will decide to use force against protesters again.

But still, they note, there is cause for concern.

“It seems like [Yanukovych] looks through Eastern not Western politician's glasses now,” says Kramar. “If we look at Russia or other countries in the region, military solution is not something unusual.”

“It is a bad sign that many policemen from the Berkut special unit are very close to the square,” adds Vorobiov. Anti-government groups accuse the Berkut riot police of using intimidation to suppress protests.

But if Yanukovych uses force, he will be totally isolated in the West and will have no other choice than become a vassal of Moscow.

“People are determined to fight, it doesn't look like they will give up easily,” says Kramar. “Everything depends on a political solution being worked out in the coming days. If politicians don't satisfy the protesters, I would not rule out a military solution.”
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Lightguns on January 08, 2014, 16:38:28
What if the Russians sent two ships. 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2533846/Battle-stations-Navy-scrambles-destroyer-challenge-Russian-warship-British-coast-takes-24-hours-make-600-mile-journey-Portsmouth-base-Putin-testing-response-time.html#ixzz2pZG9Gslw
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MilEME09 on January 08, 2014, 17:19:27
What if the Russians sent two ships. 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2533846/Battle-stations-Navy-scrambles-destroyer-challenge-Russian-warship-British-coast-takes-24-hours-make-600-mile-journey-Portsmouth-base-Putin-testing-response-time.html#ixzz2pZG9Gslw

24 hours is a long time, and a black eye to the Royal navy in my opinion, a ship loaded with land attack cruise missiles could cause a lot of damage and be gone in 24 hours. Though from the article it sounds like the RAF was on top of things at least. With decreasing Western military budgets Russia seems to be taking full advantage to push their capabilities and test response times of the west. I wonder if this will become business as usual in the North Sea, similarly to how Russian aircraft have to be intercepted in the arctic frequently?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Robert0288 on January 08, 2014, 18:53:16
Definitely a black eye for the navy, but in all honesty the RAF could have sunk the thing extremely quickly compared the the naval response time.

In other news:
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140106/DEFREG01/301060017/Russia-s-Navy-Buy-40-New-Vessels

Quote
Russia's Navy To Buy 40 New Vessels
WARSAW — With the aim of modernizing and overhauling its fleet, the Russian Navy plans to acquire 40 new vessels in 2014, said Rear Adm. Viktor Bursuk, the Navy’s deputy commander.

The procured vessels will include a Borey-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, a Varshavyanka diesel-electric submarine and the search-and-rescue ship Igor Belousov, Bursuk told local news agency RIA Novosti.

The admiral, who is responsible for the Navy’s arms procurements, said that at least two diesel-electric submarines are to be added to the Black Sea fleet. The Navy already operates two Borey-class submarines.

Bursuk did not disclose the value of the planned acquisitions.

The procurements will be part of Russia’s plan to spend US $650 billion on new arms and military equipment for its armed forces by 2020.

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that strengthening the Navy’s presence in the Arctic is one of Russia’s top defense priorities for the future. The announcement was made at a meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry’s board.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on January 08, 2014, 19:02:49
Given the Russian economy is about the size of Italy's, we should be wondering how they can afford this and if this buying spree is sustainable.

We should also wonder why with the size of our economy we cant afford to procure a few basic things like combat boots and trucks in a reasonable amount of time (much less ships and aircraft).
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: 57Chevy on January 08, 2014, 21:11:57
Quote from article above;
 "Putin said that strengthening the Navy’s presence in the Arctic is one of Russia’s top defense priorities for the future"

Perhaps it's time to consider adding a section to The Rangers.

 :sarcasm:
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Retired AF Guy on January 08, 2014, 22:41:52
What if the Russians sent two ships. 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2533846/Battle-stations-Navy-scrambles-destroyer-challenge-Russian-warship-British-coast-takes-24-hours-make-600-mile-journey-Portsmouth-base-Putin-testing-response-time.html#ixzz2pZG9Gslw

Depending on its home port (NORFLT or BALFLT) you would have thought that either Norway or Denmark would have passed on info of its transit.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Journeyman on January 08, 2014, 23:32:46
Depending on its home port (NORFLT or BALFLT) you would have thought that either Norway or Denmark would have passed on info of its transit.
The article did note that ".....as the Russian ship retreated. They followed it north to the Baltic Sea, where a Russian task force was on legitimate manoeuvres."  I'd guess its transit was reported as part of the "legitimate" group, then breaking off further out to sea. 

But then, making an assessment based on one newspaper article (UK Daily Mail at that) is a gutsy move.  :dunno:
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on January 29, 2014, 14:35:40
The interesting thing about this is while the economic decline is observable, the reason for the decline is hotly debated. I would suspect that a very strong factor would be the extreme centralization of the Russian economy, with a great many resources misallocated due to crony and State capitalism.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/01/russia-is-losing-sources-of-economic.html

Quote
Russia Is Losing Sources of Economic Growth and like Brazil and India has stagflation
 
Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics has written about the problems that Russia has generating economic growth
 
The annual Gaidar Forum, held last week in Moscow, is a good occasion to assess the country's economic state of affairs. Russia's economy and politics are marked by what optimists call stability and what pessimists call stagnation.
 
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev claimed that Russia's economic growth sources have been exhausted, and he introduced the idea of Russia being in a "middle-income trap," drawing on an academic paper by the Berkeley Professor Barry Eichengreen. Medvedev was concerned with the sudden slowdown in economic growth, which is common to countries that have reached middle incomes, such as Russia and Brazil.
 
Sensibly, Medvedev emphasized that the causes were primarily domestic in nature. Russia risks losing out when competing with more advanced economies because of insufficient institutions and high costs in less developed economies. It needs to improve the quality of its labor, management, health care, pension system and, most of all, its institutions. Yet as usual, Medvedev ended with only minor proposals for improvement, notably in the business environment.

First Deputy Chair of the Central Bank of Russia Ksenia Yudayeva claimed that Russia, like India and Brazil, had entered "stagflation," as the West did in the 1970s. Their economic growth was declining, while inflation was rising.
 
Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev opened the forum with a daring programmatic speech. Russia now seemed stuck at an annual growth rate of no more than 2.5 percent, while the rest of the world was set to grow at 3.5 percent. He focused on two factors to boost growth. Russia's investment of 21 percent of gross domestic product needed to increase to the savings rate of 30 percent of GDP. The other factor was to promote supply by improving Russia's institutions in several ways.
 
Corruption was discussed in multiple panels, but only as a low-level problem of doing business rather than as top-level larceny. The obvious solution is to discipline big state corporations, privatize them, and liberalize their markets. But everyone realizes that this is not possible under the current regime, which favors economically harmful state corporations.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on January 29, 2014, 22:15:45
How this ends will have long term implications for Russia's ability to remain relevant. Attempting to stand between the EU and Russia is not tenable. If the Ukraine moves to Russia, it strenthens Russian power for a generation, while if the protestors are successful and move to the EU, it will weaken Russia far more than most people probably realize (looking upthread at Russian economic statistics and the questions about Russian demographics don't put them in a good place):

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2013/1203/Is-Ukraine-s-unrest-a-new-Orange-Revolution-in-the-making-video

I don't see how Russia can let this situation go south (no pun intended...) It would mean that they were then flanked on all three sides (less the East) by pro-Western countries (I don't count Belarus, which as far as I can tell is a Russian "Mini-Me".) It would also (and perhaps more critically) deny them access to the port use agreement by which, AFAIK, they are still able to sustain a Black Sea Fleet.

As much as I bet Putin really, really doesn't want a detraction from the Potemkin village that is Sochi, my money is on a military intervention if the anti-Russian crowd actually seizes power. The pretexts will be variations on one or more of the usual that Russia has trotted out in the past: "fraternal" assistance to the legally elected govt of the Ukraine against Western-controlled rebels; protection of ethnic Russians in east Ukraine, etc, etc.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Journeyman on January 30, 2014, 00:06:06
..... doesn't want a detraction from the Potemkin village that is Sochi...
:rofl:   Nice.

If nothing else, I think the Russians tend to have a better grasp on time.  I suspect that 'Sochi being wonderful' will trump pretty much anything else; whatever happens in Ukraine will go uncontested (except hand-wringing within Pravda) because Russia can wait to deal with them.  After the Olympics, all bets are off.


ps - I think Belarus is worse than a Russian "Mini-Me" in that they're just as xenophobic, but living in Russia's shadow they have a "small man" neurosis tacked onto it.


Edit: punctuation
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on January 30, 2014, 04:22:47
Most of Ukraine isn't protesting, especially east of Kiev. That side is very amenable to closer ties to Russia than to the EU. 
As for Belarus, aren't they more Russian than the Russians?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on January 30, 2014, 16:44:44
Most of Ukraine isn't protesting, especially east of Kiev. That side is very amenable to closer ties to Russia than to the EU. 
As for Belarus, aren't they more Russian than the Russians?

That's always been my impression. They want Stalin to come back: Putin is too much of a Westernized wussy for them.

But, seriously, you raise a good point about East-West Ukraine division. One wonders if there is a Yugo-style civil war on the horizon. Which will, of course, only further guarantee that Moscow will send in the Cossacks.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on February 23, 2014, 00:01:41
Russia as a Potemkin Village. So long as people remain dazzled by the external appearance, or need the backing of a supposedly Great Power for diplomatic purposes, Russia can continue to pull off the Great Power act. The economic foundation is crumbling, and Russia's social foundations have been unmoored for at least a generation:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/blog/2014/02/21/putins-achilles-heel/

Quote
Putin’s Achilles Heel

Give Putin some credit: He has put together an impressive spectacle in Sochi. But while the world’s attention is focused on Kiev and the billion-dollar show in the Caucasus, Russia’s economy as a whole is slowly falling apart. Capital flight is accelerating, and the ruble has fallen by 8.1 percent this year and 1.7 percent in the past week alone. Only the Argentinian peso is doing worse.

Russia was also forced to cancel three debt auctions in four weeks due to weak demand and high yields. The markets have cast a skeptical eye on Putin’s policies, particularly his decision to pledge $15 billion in aid to Ukraine so soon after dropping nearly three times that amount on Sochi. As one analyst told Bloomberg:

“The meddling with Ukraine certainly hurts Russia’s image as an investment destination,” David Hauner, a fixed-income and currency strategist at Bank of America Corp., said in a telephone interview from London. “It is not going to bankrupt Russia, but $15 billion can turn out to be $50 billion, and Russia will have to plug the holes for a couple years.”

Another analyst noted that the trouble in Ukraine was hurting Russia’s image in the markets:

“From a psychological standpoint, Ukraine’s problems affect foreign investors’ perception of Russia,” Vladimir Bragin, head of research at Alfa Capital in Moscow, said in a telephone interview. “In their eyes, the first reaction is to sell Russia, cut risks. It’s in Russia’s interests that the situation stabilizes” in Ukraine.

Putin’s foreign policy successes will be hard to replicate in the economic sphere, where he can’t count on Western fecklessness or incompetence to bail him out. Russia’s economic troubles are the consequence of his failure to lead an effective economic transformation over the past two decades.

Imagine if Putin had been able to develop a track record like the Chinese Communists over the past 20 years. Russia would be in far better shape than it is today and would likely have the money to devote to both Sochi and Ukraine without spooking the markets. But he hasn’t, and he doesn’t appear likely to do so in the future.

Russia’s failure is not about democracy, transparency, or corruption. China has galloping corruption and little democracy or transparency, but it has still managed to pursue a successful development path. Putin’s Russia hasn’t, and now it’s paying the price.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on February 26, 2014, 02:58:53
Magic Realism as a metaphor for Russia's political class. The striking contrast between the reality (a GDP the size of Italy and a per capita GDP similar to that of the Barbados) and the aspiration to regain Great Power or even Superpower status is going to ba a source of long term problems given Russia's xenophobic culture and the lingering sense of bitterness from their defeat in the Cold War:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/articles/2014/02/14/russias-political-magical-realism/

Quote
Russia’s Political Magical Realism
AUREL BRAUN
The glitter of the Sochi spectacle hides the reality of an empire in decline. Is Putin’s profligacy hastening Russia’s nosedive?

Published on February 14, 2014
Visitors who have braved the threat of terrorism and shelled out big bucks for airfare, hotels, and event tickets at the Sochi Olympics are getting something for their money: lavish ceremonies, world-class athletic competition, architecturally striking sporting venues, and spectacular vistas from the slopes. President Putin undoubtedly views the grandeur of these Olympics, by far the most costly in history, as a testimony to the greatness of Russia and a sign of its return to the commanding center of the international system. The irony is that Sochi reflects not what is great about Russia but much of what is fundamentally wrong with it.

The Sochi Olympics are emblematic of a perilous political distortion in Russia. Let’s call it “political magical realism,” after the literary technique used so successfully by writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In the political context, this approach entails evading problems by retreating into fantasy rather than finding solutions for them. Some of the hallmarks of this approach are President Putin’s highly publicized, thoroughly ridiculous staged feats of personal strength, underwater archaeology, and wildlife rescues. The policy manifestations of this approach are Russia’s grandiose domestic projects and manic international activities, highlighted by political subversion of the judiciary, anti-gay laws, the prosecution of political opponents, and electoral malfeasance. The country, including now a large and seething opposition, are thus left to face a bizarre mix of the repressive and the risible.

None of this is to deny that Russia has the potential to climb out of this morass. Blessed with enormous natural resources and a talented, well-educated population, it still has the ability to become a successful modern state. Note that this is not about superpower restoration—a Putinite delusion. (Russia’s well documented demographic problems preclude this.) Rather, it is about Russia’s potential to become another Japan or Germany.(Interpolation: this is the best case scenario in the post Putin environment)

Russia remains weighed down by an uncompetitive uni-dimensional economy whose only viable exports are energy and armaments. The Kremlin’s unconscionable waste of Russia’s entrepreneurial energy, scientific talent, and national wealth have left the country with a nominal GDP equivalent to Italy (but without its international competitiveness and diversity) and a per capita GDP approximating that of Barbados.

Corruption in Russia remains not only endemic, but cannibalistic. Business law offers little protection, particularly to foreign investors, and the outflow of funds usually far exceeds incoming capital and investments. Putin has centralized corruption rather than reducing itPutin has centralized corruption rather than reducing it. Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranks Russia 127th out of 174 countries.

Nonetheless Putin’s government continues to be driven by seemingly limitless domestic and international ambitions. With a stagnant economy that will likely come under increasing stress over the next few years, Russia is witnessing the yawning gap between the Kremlin’s unrestrained imperial ambitions and its true capacity transform into a treacherous gulf.

To be sure, Russia has enjoyed some seeming international successes. For example, Putin appears to have outmaneuvered President Obama and saved Russia’s Syrian client, Bashar al-Assad. Moscow also succeeded in bullying Ukraine into dropping its promise to sign the (Eastern Partnership) association agreement with the European Union and setting out on a path to join the Russian controlled Eurasian (Customs) Union. But as with many things involving Russia, here too appearances are deceiving.

In Syria, the Russian-brokered chemical weapons agreement with Syria could be called a “one percent solution” (as 99 percent of those who have died have been killed by conventional weapons); the fighting continues unabated and the situation has grown more unstable over time. There is also continuing friction between Moscow and Washington over the Kremlin’s support for Iran, its pressure on Ukraine and over its apparent violation of the 1987 treaty on intermediate-range nuclear forces. All of these may be coaxing the Obama Administration to take tougher measures against the Kremlin.

Further, Russian support for sordid dictatorships presents long-term risks—and not just risks to its reputation. In protecting the Iranian regime and thus facilitating its nuclear weapons ambitions, Moscow may find itself confronting a nuclear Iran whose missiles could just as easily reach the Russian capital as they could Israel. Associations with Belarus and support for Assad also impose heavy economic costs. In the case of Ukraine, the weakness and ineptness of the Yanukovych government could cause Russia’s expensive hegemonic plans there to unravel.

In light of all of these problems, the Sochi Olympics looks like nothing more than an absurdly lavish party, a fantasy that Russia can ill afford. After the Olympic torch goes dark and the euphoria of the games dissipates, the Kremlin will still have to face the cold reality of its failure to transform Russia into a modern state.

Aurel Braun is visiting professor in the Department of Government at Harvard University. He is also Professor of International Relations and Political Science at the University of Toronto. His latest book is NATO-Russia Relations in the Twenty-First Century.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on February 26, 2014, 04:29:38
...a GDP the size of Italy...
Which makes it a top ten GDP in the world.
According to the United Nations Statistics Division, it is 8th largest in the world (after the US, China, Japan, Germany, France, the UK and Brazil).
According to the IMF, it is 8th as well (after the US, China, Japan, Germany, France, the UK and Brazil: the same as the UN Stats Division)
Same listing according to the world bank and the CIA world fact book.

(Interestingly, the EU is ahead of the USA in GDP, as an aside)

Also, let's not forget that Russia works by Russia's rules, not by ours.  And GDP isn't all it takes to succeed. 

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on February 27, 2014, 15:20:01
Indeed, but having fiscal resources is very important to acheive your goals. To act as a Superpower (the Putinite dream), then you need access to superpower levels of financial capability. Given the relatively limited financial capabilities, plus the declining manpower, Russia will have to make some very hard choices about where to actually deploy the resources.

Russia becoming a new "Japan" or "Germany" is a very achievable goalithin its resource envelope.

Of course to use these resources effectively, there will have to be a huge shift in Russian "culture", including developing independent and relatively "clean" institutions (rather than centralized corruption).
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on February 27, 2014, 17:51:20
They've turned the corner on their declining population.  Of course, its effect won't be felt for a decade or so.
But...its debt is only 11% of its GDP, whereas the U.S.'s is about 101%.
You keep talking as though Russia is about to collapse.  It's far from it, its economy is growing, and Putin has international clout, such as it is.
And he was able to mass a combined arms army on Ukraine's border, with over 800 tanks. He has power and we'd be daft to brush him off as impotent.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: tomahawk6 on March 02, 2014, 13:50:55
Look at the economic disaster that is Ukraine.The previous government spent the country into the ground.Which is why they need EU money.The Russian economy cannot carry the Ukraine without damaging its own shaky economy which is why I think Putin will be satisfied with the Crimea.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/canada-has-a-role-to-play-in-ukraines-future/article17131989/
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 02, 2014, 15:06:22
I agree with the article but rather than seeing the "informal economy" as a problem to be solved by technocrats (Gawd how I detest that word) I would see that as the foundation of a proto-capitalist society.  I would not be worrying about raising taxes from the broke and starving.  I would be encouraging them to convert and build the informal economy, through support to small and medium businesses, into a productive economy that can be taxed.

Ukraine needs short term financing.  It can't wait for the IMF to get its act together, and frankly the IMF terms seldom give comfort to any but the lenders.

Canada can afford to carry some of the bill as a bilateral loan.  The same is true for Britain, the US and Germany.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Colin P on March 03, 2014, 11:20:04
This latest crisis also bumped the price of NG, which helps Russia as it sells to Europe.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 03, 2014, 17:49:02
Is this the sort of thinking behind the actions of the Russian "elites"?

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/372353/eurasianist-threat-robert-zubrin#!

Quote
The Eurasianist Threat
Putin’s ambitions extend far beyond Ukraine.

ByRobert Zubrin
The National Bolshevik Party flag flies near a statue of Lenin.

As the Putin regime invades Ukraine, it has become apparent that a new force for evil has emerged in Moscow. It is essential that Americans become aware of the nature of the threat.

Putin is sometimes described as a revanchist, seeking to recreate the Soviet Union. That is a useful shorthand, but it is not really accurate. Putin and many of his gang may have once been Communists, but they are not that today. Rather, they have embraced a new totalitarian political ideology known as “Eurasianism.”

The roots of Eurasianism go back to czarist émigrés interacting with fascist thinkers in between-the-wars France and Germany. But in recent years, its primary exponent has been the very prominent and prolific political theorist Aleksandr Dugin.

Born in 1962, Dugin was admitted to the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1979, but then was expelled because of his involvement with mystic neo-Nazi groups. He then spent the Eighties hanging around monarchist and ultra-right-wing circles, before joining for a while​ Gennady Ziuganov’s Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF, a neo-Stalinist group partially descended from, but not to be confused with, the previously ruling Communist Party of the Soviet Union, CPSU), after which he became a founder and chief ideologue of the Eurasianist National Bolshevik Party (NBP) in 1994.

Nazism, it will be recalled, was an abbreviation for National Socialism. National Bolshevism, therefore, put itself forth as an ideology that relates to National Socialism in much the same way as Bolshevism relates to Socialism. This open self-identification with Nazism is also shown clearly in the NBP flag, which looks exactly like a Nazi flag, with a red background surrounding a white circle, except that the black swastika at the center is replaced by a black hammer and sickle.

Dugin ran for the Duma on the NBP ticket in 1995, but got only 1 percent of the vote. So, switching tactics, he abandoned the effort to build his own splinter party and instead adopted the more productive strategy of becoming the idea man for all the bigger parties, including Putin’s United Russia, Ziuganov’s CPRF, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. In this role he has succeeded brilliantly.

The core idea of Dugin’s Eurasianism is that “liberalism” (by which is meant the entire Western consensus) represents an assault on the traditional hierarchical organization of the world. Repeating the ideas of Nazi theorists Karl Haushofer, Rudolf Hess, Carl Schmitt, and Arthur Moeller van der Bruck, Dugin says that this liberal threat is not new, but is the ideology of the maritime cosmopolitan power “Atlantis,” which has conspired to subvert more conservative land-based societies since ancient times. Accordingly, he has written books in which he has reconstructed the entire history of the world as a continuous battle between these two factions, from Rome v. Carthage to Russia v. the Anglo Saxon “Atlantic Order,” today. If Russia is to win this fight against the subversive oceanic bearers of such “racist” (because foreign-imposed) ideas as human rights, however, it must unite around itself all the continental powers, including Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics, Turkey, Iran, and Korea, into a grand Eurasian Union strong enough to defeat the West.

In order to be so united, this Eurasian Union will need a defining ideology, and for this purpose Dugin has developed a new “Fourth Political Theory” combining all the strongest points of Communism, Nazism, Ecologism, and Traditionalism, thereby allowing it to appeal to the adherents of all of these diverse anti-liberal creeds. He would adopt Communism’s opposition to free enterprise. However, he would drop the Marxist commitment to technological progress, a liberal-derived ideal, in favor of Ecologism’s demagogic appeal to stop the advance of industry and modernity. From Traditionalism, he derives a justification for stopping free thought. All the rest is straight out of Nazism, ranging from legal theories justifying unlimited state power and the elimination of individual rights, to the need for populations “rooted” in the soil, to weird gnostic ideas about the secret origin of the Aryan race in the North Pole.

The open devotion to Nazism is Dugin’s thought is remarkable. In his writings he celebrates the Waffen SS, murderers of millions of Russians during the war, as an ideal organization. He also approves of the most extreme crimes of Communism, going so far as to endorse the horrific 1937 purges that killed, among numerous other talented and loyal Soviet citizens, nearly the entire leadership of the Red Army — something that Stalin himself later had second thoughts about.

What Russia needs, says Dugin, is a “genuine, true, radically revolutionary and consistent, fascist fascism.” On the other hand, “Liberalism, is an absolute evil. . . . Only a global crusade against the U.S., the West, globalization, and their political-ideological expression, liberalism, is capable of becoming an adequate response. . . . The American empire should be destroyed.”

This is the ideology behind the Putin regime’s “Eurasian Union” project. It is to this dark program, which threatens not only the prospects for freedom in Ukraine and Russia, but the peace of the world, that former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych tried to sell “his” country. It is against this program that the courageous protesters in the Maidan took their stand and — with scandalously little help from the West — somehow miraculously prevailed. But now the chips are really down. The Ukrainians are being faced not with riot police, but with Russian divisions, subversion, and economic warfare. The country needs to be stabilized, and defended. The Ukrainians deserve our full support — and not just for reasons of sympathy for those resisting tyranny or respect for the brave. It is in the vital interest of America that freedom triumphs in Ukraine.

Without Ukraine, Dugin’s fascist Eurasian Union project is impossible, and sooner or later Russia itself will have to join the West and become free, leaving only a few despised and doomed islands of tyranny around the globe. But with Ukraine underfoot, the Eurasianists’ program can and will proceed, and a new Iron Curtain will fall into place imprisoning a large fraction of humanity in the grip of a monstrous totalitarian power that will become the arsenal of evil around the world for decades to come. That means another Cold War, trillions of dollars wasted on arms, accelerated growth of the national-security state at home, repeated proxy conflicts costing millions of lives abroad, and civilization itself placed at risk should a single misstep in the endless insane great-power game precipitate the locked and loaded confrontation into a thermonuclear exchange.

The 20th century saw three great-power confrontations. Two of them turned into total war. We lucked out on the third. Do we really want to roll those dice again? We will have to, unless the Eurasianist program is stopped.

The stakes in Ukraine could not be higher.

— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy and the author of Energy Victory. The paperback edition of his latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, has just been published by Encounter Books.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Robert0288 on March 09, 2014, 22:10:01
Deserved to be in a Russia thread, but there isn't enough information for its own.

Apparently a 100MW power plant in Novokuznetsk exploded yesterday, looks like it supplied power to a town of about 550,000 people as well as being home to metal industries.   On the bright side, its non-nuclear.

http://englishrussia.com/2014/03/07/an-explosion-at-novokuznetsk-power-plant/#more-141118
http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=89f_1394272050&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=33227215
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novokuznetsk
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 19, 2014, 12:23:44
Russian nationalism raises some disturbing questions about what sort of future Vladimir Putin is setting for Russia, and what sort of state it is evolving into:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/articles/2014/03/14/putins-nationalist-gamble/

Quote
Putin’s Nationalist Gamble

Raymond Sontag

In justifying his intervention in Crimea with a duty to defend Russians abroad, Putin is fueling the destructive fire of nationalism. It could be Russia’s undoing.
 
Published on March 14, 2014

On the eve of Moscow’s incursion into Crimea, the Kremlin mouthpiece Izvestia ran a headline declaring “A Majority of Russians Consider Crimea Russian Territory”. Curiously, though, the article that followed was not about Russia needing to grab territory, but rather about its struggle to hold the territory it has. According to a recent poll, the paper wrote, while 56 percent believe Crimea is Russian land, only about 40 percent consider Russia’s predominantly Muslim regions of Chechnya and Dagestan to be such. Existing state borders, it seems, mean little to Russians’ ideas of what constitutes Russia.
 
This fact may embolden the country’s leaders to occupy foreign territory, but it also scares them. Izvestia called this failure to accept ethnic minorities as countrymen the “single greatest danger to the Russian state’s integrity”. In this, it echoed Vladimir Putin’s recent campaign to promote a civic national identity as opposed to one based on ethnicity. “Nationalists must remember that by calling into question our multi-ethnic character… we will begin to destroy ourselves” he warned recently. “In order to maintain the nation’s unity, people must develop a civic identity on the basis of shared values.”
 
In justifying his intervention in Crimea with a duty to defend Russians or Russian-speakers abroad, though, Putin has fueled the destructive fire of nationalism that his civic-identity campaign is meant to combat. If Russians conceive of their country in ethnic terms, why should minorities and the regions they dominate be part of that country? And why should predominantly ethnic Russian regions in other countries not be part of that state? A Russia that defines itself in ethnic terms will be unable to integrate territories in the North Caucasus peacefully and will be more likely to look at lands beyond its borders as rightfully its own.
 
Many have dismissed both Putin’s civic-identity campaign and his commitment to Russians abroad as cynical ploys meant only to serve immediate political needs. Indeed, Putin until now has shown little interest in ethnicity, ideology or identity, largely ignoring Russians abroad and dismissing the search for a national idea that many pundits and politicians engage in as an “ancient Russian game”. But Putin’s motivations and sincerity are beside the point. The dangerous nationalist tendencies he claims to combat at home are real even if he does not recognize or care how his actions abroad exacerbate those tendencies.
 
An Old Problem
 
Russia’s worsening interethnic relations do seem to have captured Putin’s attention before his latest adventures in Ukraine. According to the Levada polling firm the number of people who support the idea that “Russia is for [ethnic] Russians” – a favorite slogan among right-wing groups – grew from 55 percent to 66 percent between 2002 and 2013, while the proportion who oppose the phrase as “true fascism” declined from 28 percent to 19 percent. Similarly, over that period the number of people who said they “felt hostility toward people of different nationalities” grew from 12 percent to 20 percent. As a 2013 government report noted, “post-Soviet Russia has a crisis of civic identity, ethnic intolerance, separatism and terrorism, as a result of which there is a danger of society disintegrating.” To combat this, the report proposes a $186-million, 6-year program to “strengthen the unity of the Russian Federation’s multinational people”. Putin has devoted considerable attention to this problem, making it the focus of his 2013-state of the-nation address.
 
The problem of forming a common identity out of myriad ethnicities and managing ethnic Russian nationalism is, of course, not new for Russia. The Soviet Union faced the same challenge and it was ultimately a resurgence of ethnic nationalisms that broke that country apart. Putin’s civic-identity campaign, in fact, borrows heavily from Soviet nationalities policy: It is based largely on opposition to Western liberalism; it seeks to preserve and promote the country’s various ethnic cultures while uniting them in a larger community; it emphasizes protecting the state and the ethnic group and deemphasizes the rights of the individual; and it seeks simultaneously to temper ethnic Russian nationalism and harness it as a uniting force. “For centuries, Russia developed as a multi-ethnic nation” Putin said in his 2012 state-of-the-nation address, “a civilization-state bonded by the [ethnic] Russian people, Russian language and Russian culture native for all of us, uniting us and preventing us from dissolving in this diverse world.”
 
Whereas the Soviet Union could build an identity around Marxism-Leninism, Putin’s Russia lacks any such unifying ideas. He has offered as ideology a brand of conservatism that emphasizes defending “traditional values” against Western political and cultural encroachment, with opposition to same-sex partnerships and efforts to promote democracy around the world featuring prominently. He presents this conservatism as a philosophy of national salvation from forces that would overturn the traditional order, explaining it by quoting the twentieth-century anti-revolutionary philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev: “The point of conservatism is not that it prevents movement forward and upward, but that it prevents movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state.” But while the Kremlin has assigned reading and organized seminars for government officials in an effort to develop this ideology, it still largely lacks positive values and is primarily reactive. Putin is far longer on what he opposes than what he is for.
 
Can’t Have It Both Ways
 
The crisis in Ukraine has shown the promise, limits and dangers of Putin’s ideology. On the one hand, the idea of defending the beleaguered people of Crimea from Western encroachment has been a powerful and popular message within Russia. On the other hand, official language on the subject veers quickly into ethnic Russian nationalism, with no real appeal to common values. Putin’s rhetoric on Ukraine is, in fact, another attempt to harness ethnic Russian nationalism without embracing it. He has tried to avoid mention of ethnic Russians when discussing motivations for intervening, instead pointing to a duty to protect “Russian-speaking populations”. Russian language, something common to all Russia’s citizens, seems like safer ground than ethnicity for building support for military action abroad. Further down the Kremlin’s propaganda vertical, though, this distinction becomes muddled.
 
The country’s main television channel this week, for example, described a large protest in Stavropol as being in “defense of [ethnic] Russians and Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine”. That a protest in Stavropol, a city in the diverse and restive North Caucasus, would focus on protecting ethnic Russians is notable and troubling. Interethnic tensions have been most destructive in this part of the country and checking separatist movements there is a primary objective of the civic-identity campaign. If, encouraged by Moscow, people in the North Caucasus are taking to the streets to defend the rights of ethnic Russians, what chance do efforts to build peace and unity through common civic values have? In his drive for Crimea, Putin is undermining one of the great projects of his presidency: keeping regions such as Chechnya and Dagestan within Russia.
 
Moscow’s expansion of power in Ukraine weakens its power in the North Caucasus not only because of the separatist precedent it sets, but because of what it says about how the country sees itself: as “Russia for Russians” and not a multinational people. Putin has kept the North Caucasus under control through force and massive spending, a policy that has spawned one of Russian nationalists’ favorite slogans: “Enough Feeding the Caucasus!” Money and lives spent in the North Caucasus alienates the rest of Russia from that part of the country, necessitating that more lives and resources be spent to hold on to it. Failure to build a real sense of national unity means that Russia’s colonial project within its own borders will have to continue until the will and means to fight are exhausted. The idea of Russia ultimately paying a high price at home for its actions in Ukraine may well please American politicians and pundits eager to see Putin punished. But Russia losing control of the North Caucasus would likely be disastrous for the outside world.

Raymond Sontag received his doctorate in politics from the University of Oxford in 2011. He previously served as the program officer for the National Democratic Institute's political party program in Moscow.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on March 21, 2014, 11:24:30
Putin is nothing if not astute. He knows what ancient buttons to push in the Russian psyche, and how to exploit what seem to me to be the narrow-minded, suspicious, xenophobic/paranoid attitudes of the average citizen. (Kind of like a Russian version of the Tea Party...)

All he has to do is say "those Western devils and their lackies the (insert despised ethnic minority here) are threatening Mother Russia! They will force us all to be gay liberals, and to wear clothes that were made after 1978!!"

Then the usual gang of skin-heads, neo-fascists, bemedalled veterans and leather jacketed, slightly overweight men with bad haircuts take to the streets and kick it up a notch.

OK, now I'm indulging in stereotyping.... >:D

Even Stalin and his gang resorted to this nationalism in WWII: when things when bad, he made an emotional and deeply traditional appeal to Russians as Russians, not as internationalist Communists. After all: look at what they called WWII: "The Great Patriotic War of The Fatherland".
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Infantryman2b on March 21, 2014, 13:07:56
http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/6/putin-has-transformed-russian-army-into-a-lean-mea/?page=all

Good read on Russia's new military mobility. This talk of how weak Russia's economy and what not isn't valid IMO. For one the Wests economy is crumbling, the US is trillions in debt, American society is filled with violence and crime and corruption also(maybe not as much as Russia, but very close), and the EU isn't strong IMO. Not to mention if we continue aggressive measures on Russia, then I guarantee  China will side with Russia damaging everyones economy. Gas would need to come from somewhere else not to mention all the other resources Europe gets from Russia. The Russian mainland has all the resources and minerals needed to sustain its own war machine for a long time. Underestimating Russian resolve and might are mistakes histories greatest military minds gambled on and lost big time. Its Naive to think the present situation is the basis to which to estimate capabilities.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on March 21, 2014, 13:36:32
http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/6/putin-has-transformed-russian-army-into-a-lean-mea/?page=all

... Underestimating Russian resolve and might are mistakes histories greatest military minds gambled on and lost big time...

I agree with what you said here.

Its Nivea to think the present situation is the basis to which to estimate capabilities.

...But I don't think you meant "Nivea". That is a kind of hand cream.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 21, 2014, 16:03:35
Russia's project seems more and more like reassembling the USSR, or Imperial Russia:

http://hotair.com/archives/2014/03/21/is-putin-making-moves-in-latin-america-too/

Quote
Is Putin making moves in Latin America too?
posted at 10:41 am on March 21, 2014 by Bruce McQuain

While everyone is focused on the Ukraine and eastern Europe, Vladimir Putin has also been projecting Russian power into our own backyard:
 
Away from the conflict in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is quietly seeking a foothold in Latin America, military officials warn.
 
To the alarm of lawmakers and Pentagon officials, Putin has begun sending navy ships and long-range bombers to the region for the first time in years.
 
Russia’s defense minister says the country is planning bases in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, and just last week, Putin’s national security team met to discuss increasing military ties in the region.
 
“They’re on the march,” Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) said at a Senate hearing earlier this month. “They’re working the scenes where we can’t work. And they’re doing a pretty good job.”
 
Gen. James Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command said there has been a “noticeable uptick in Russian power projection and security force personnel” in Latin America.

 “It has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian military presence,” Kelly said at the March 13 hearing.
 
Less obviously, but for a longer time, China too has been establishing a presense in the region:
 

“In Venezuela, a lot of the money that’s been able to prop up President Chavez and now Maduro has been Chinese money,” Kelly said.
 
But the push by Russia has implications which can’t be ignored, especially its attempt to establish bases in its old client states when it was the USSR.
 
Meanwhile, Latin America certainly hasn’t been much of a priority for the US:
 

According to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), there are 10 countries in Latin America that currently have no U.S. ambassador because they either haven’t been nominated yet or confirmed, a sign that the region is seen as a low priority.
 
Another sign of an inept foreign policy. If we don’t move quickly to correct the situation, the outcome is pretty easy to predict:
 

“We will be losing the ability to influence developments in a region that is very important to us because of proximity,” Rabasa said.
 
Indeed.  Likely these warning will be waved off as alarmism until it is too late.  And it will then tally as another failure in a long line of foreign policy failures by this administration.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on March 21, 2014, 16:16:04
...But I don't think you meant "Nivea". That is a kind of hand cream.
Gotta love auto-complete!
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on March 21, 2014, 20:40:28
Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́
Great Patriotic War.  No need to add "of the fatherland", because "patriotic" implies that.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 21, 2014, 22:57:46
Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́
Great Patriotic War.  No need to add "of the fatherland", because "patriotic" implies that.

Спасибо, Господи
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on March 22, 2014, 14:11:38
Putin's upcoming May meeting (http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/720929) with Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping should also be something to watch for this year.

Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/21/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-insight-idUSBREA2K07S20140321?irpc=932)

Quote
Putin looks to Asia as West threatens to isolate Russia

By Timothy Heritage and Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW  Fri Mar 21, 2014 6:09am EDT


(Reuters) - When President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty this week annexing Crimea to great fanfare in the Kremlin and anger in the West, a trusted lieutenant was making his way to Asia to shore up ties with Russia's eastern allies.

Forcing home the symbolism of his trip, Igor Sechin gathered media in Tokyo the next day to warn Western governments that more sanctions over Moscow's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine would be counter-productive.

The underlying message from the head of Russia's biggest oil company, Rosneft, was clear: If Europe and the United States isolate Russia, Moscow will look East for new business, energy deals, military contracts and political alliances.

The Holy Grail for Moscow is a natural gas supply deal with China that is apparently now close after years of negotiations. If it can be signed when Putin visits China in May, he will be able to hold it up to show that global power has shifted eastwards and he does not need the West.

(...EDITED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 22, 2014, 14:23:43
Putin's upcoming May meeting (http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/720929) with Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping should also be something to watch for this year.

Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/21/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-insight-idUSBREA2K07S20140321?irpc=932)


Putin/Russia needs to be a bit cautious. China is not Europe. China will not allow Russia to turn off the gas or oil ... not even once.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 22, 2014, 15:16:00
Bloomberg:  Does Europe Need Russian Gas? (http://www.bloomberg.com/video/does-europe-need-russian-gas-KITwFbWNTae29EBlkyZiGA.html)

Putkin may already be in the process of shooting himself in the foot.

Edit to get the link to work
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 22, 2014, 16:48:56
An interesting contrast piece; Russia in pre revolutionary times, photographed in colour. the images are very sharp and colour saturated, being photographed using a 3 plate process, details in the article.

The Final Years of Pre-Soviet Russia, Captured in Glorious Color

http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2014/03/prokudin-gorskii-photos-russia
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 23, 2014, 16:28:41
Interesting but, I think, because it is designed to convince Americans to change governments, not because it presents a credible case for a Russian turn around.

I remain convinced that Russia is a failing state, not a potential leader of even a rival for any of the America, China or India.


Here is an interesting take on Russia and Putin and neo-Eurasianism in an article that is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/has-putin-bought-into-these-dangerous-ideas/article17610287/#dashboard/follows/
Quote
(http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/media/www/images/flag/gam-masthead.png)
Has Putin bought into these dangerous ideas?

DOUG SAUNDERS
The Globe and Mail

Published Saturday, Mar. 22 2014

On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin stood before the Duma and delivered a speech that changed the history of his country, and possibly of the world. The speech opened by declaring that the representatives of Crimea seated before him were “citizens of Russia, residents of Crimea and Sevastopol,” and ended by making this a fact, by signing Crimea into the Russian Federation, and making the world’s largest country slightly larger.

During the intervening hour he uttered 5,000 words that will be studied carefully. They changed the world’s question from “What is Mr. Putin thinking?” to “Does he really believe what he says?” If his language is taken at face value, Mr. Putin has become an ethnic-nationalist menace to his people and region, a Slobodan Milosevic with better weapons. If he is simply drawing on the language of extremism for political gain, then a different response is needed.

Speakers of Russian immediately noticed something different.

As Kimberly Marten, a Russia scholar at Columbia University noted, for the first time Mr. Putin did not refer to Russians as “Rossisskii” – citizens of Russia – but as “Russkii,” ethnic Russians. “Crimea is primordial ‘Russkaya’ land, and Sevastapol is a ‘Russkii’ city,” he said. And he described the Orthodox Church as the institution that “predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”

His speech’s blend of Orthodox Christian ethnic-Russian nationalism with conspiratorial anti-Americanism is a major tip of the hat to the movement known as neo-Eurasianism, an ultra-nationalist political philosophy whose explosive language has become either Mr. Putin’s new guiding belief or, more likely, an important rhetorical tool in his political arsenal.

The central figure in this movement is the bearded philosopher Alexander Dugin, who has played an on-and-off advisory role in Mr. Putin’s political party for 14 years and who has frequently spoken to the media on behalf of Kremlin interests during the Ukraine crisis.

In the years after communism collapsed, Mr. Dugin and other activists revived Eurasianism, a pre-communist movement that saw the Russians as a fully independent third “civilization” between East and West. To this he added more Orthodox mysticism, the ideas of Martin Heidegger and of anti-globalization thinkers such as Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, a sprinkling of gender studies and critical theory, and came up with a movement whose declared enemies are liberal democracy, modernism and the Enlightenment, which he sees not as ideas with their own proud and independent history in Russia (which they are) but as tainted Western imports.

In 1992, months after the Soviet Union collapsed, Mr. Dugin wrote proudly that “the Endkampf, the final struggle will burst upon us very soon … the decisive hour is already at hand, the hour of Eurasia. The great war of the continents is approaching.”

It is unlikely (we can hope) that these words are what Mr. Putin has had in mind when his speeches have referred to neo-Eurasian ideas. After all, the President showed little sign of being an ethnic nationalist or Eurasianist during his first two terms in office, or even the beginning of his third; this new language has emerged in recent years, after Russia’s liberal middle class revolted against him and he sought a new political base.

Rather, he seems to be drawing from Mr. Dugin’s 2009 manifesto The Fourth Political Theory, which became a sensation in Moscow circles. The other three political theories to which the title alludes are liberalism, fascism and communism; the first, (economic and political liberalism, including liberal democracy), is to be opposed by all means possible. Fascists and communists, Islamists and “defenders of the spiritual traditions of the pre-modern West” are described as crucial allies in this struggle. He refers to his own ideology, the fourth, not just as neo-Eurasianism but frequently as “National Bolshevism” (a reference to National Socialism – he is an admirer of the Nazi legacy). He describes his ideology as “socialism without materialism, atheism, progressivism and modernism.”

Does Vladimir Putin really believe all of this? It’s unlikely, given his lack of prior interest in such extremes of ethnic nationalism. But he is clearly using this movement, and language, as a tactic with which to cement his power, as a gaudy ornament to his self-aggrandizement. For now, this is how we should see the move on Crimea: As an easily grabbed jewel in an autocrat’s crown, not as the launch of a continental bid. We are right to isolate and shun Mr. Putin as long as he pays favour to such dangerous beliefs; he must be aware of their darkest implications.

Neo-Eurasianism is a strange doctrine that holds that Russia is special and has a special place between liberal, Western Europe and conservative Sinic Asia. It is, in my opinion: fascist and foolish.

Russia is, simply, backwards.

Despite Borodin and Tchaikovsky,  Sholokhov and Solzhenitsyn, Abrikosov and Ginzburg and Ilyushin and Korolev, Russia remains an essentially peasant society stuck, not positioned, between a dynamic, forward looking Europe and an equally dynamic, albeit often inscrutable, Asia.

I think Aleksandr Dugin is charismatic but, fundamentally wrong. He has said, in The Basics of Geopolitics (1997) that: “In principle, Eurasia and our space, the heartland Russia, remain the staging area of a new anti-bourgeois, anti-American revolution. ... The new Eurasian empire will be constructed on the fundamental principle of the common enemy: the rejection of Atlanticism, strategic control of the USA, and the refusal to allow liberal values to dominate us. This common civilizational impulse will be the basis of a political and strategic union.” He promotes an alliance between Eurasia and the Arabs.  I think Dugin sees, clearly and correctly, that Russia is surrounded and will, sooner or later, will be chewed up, piece by piece, by the Germans Mittel Europeans and the Chinese. I understand that he and Putin want to fight against that, but ...  :dunno:
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Infantryman2b on March 23, 2014, 17:00:35
Some good articles. Hopefully no matter what happens, the worlds powers realize nobody can win an all out nuclear war. I think that if war did come between the west and east, the threat of nuclear war would happen if one of the major players was losing and country was facing a direct invasion. But then again nobody can know for sure. Russia definitely has an agenda as does China, this is definitely some very interesting current events.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 23, 2014, 17:16:51
Quote
As Kimberly Marten, a Russia scholar at Columbia University noted, for the first time Mr. Putin did not refer to Russians as “Rossisskii” – citizens of Russia – but as “Russkii,” ethnic Russians. “Crimea is primordial ‘Russkaya’ land, and Sevastapol is a ‘Russkii’ city,” he said. And he described the Orthodox Church as the institution that “predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”

His speech’s blend of Orthodox Christian ethnic-Russian nationalism with conspiratorial anti-Americanism is a major tip of the hat to the movement known as neo-Eurasianism, an ultra-nationalist political philosophy whose explosive language has become either Mr. Putin’s new guiding belief or, more likely, an important rhetorical tool in his political arsenal.

And in Georgia (http://www.civil.ge/eng/category.php?id=87&gallery=93)

Quote
‘No to Theocracy’ Rally and Counter Demo
A week after Orthodox clergy-led crowd violently attacked an attempted anti-homophobia rally, several hundred people gathered on May 24 in downtown Tbilisi park under the slogan ‘No to Theocracy’ to protest against violence and to speak out against what they believe is the Georgian Orthodox Church’s attempts to claim supremacy over the state. In the same park a parallel rally was held by counter-demonstrators, who said they were gathered to protest against “propaganda” of homosexuality on the one hand and on the other to speak out in defense of the Georgian Church and Orthodoxy; some carried banners calling for “ban of propaganda of sexual wrongness and indecency”; one Orthodox priest at counter demo said he was protesting against “LGBTization in Georgia.” There was a heavy police presence in between the two demonstrations.

Way too many coincidences and too much speed.  This is not a spur of the moment response to some demonstrators in Kyiv/Kiev.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 23, 2014, 17:32:37
Quote
In the years after communism collapsed, Mr. Dugin and other activists revived Eurasianism,a pre-communist movement that saw the Russians as a fully independent third “civilization” between East and West. To this he added more Orthodox mysticism, the ideas of Martin Heidegger and of anti-globalization thinkers such as Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, a sprinkling of gender studies and critical theory, and came up with a movement whose declared enemies are liberal democracy, modernism and the Enlightenment, which he sees not as ideas with their own proud and independent history in Russia (which they are) but as tainted Western imports.

In 1992, months after the Soviet Union collapsed, Mr. Dugin wrote proudly that “the Endkampf, the final struggle will burst upon us very soon … the decisive hour is already at hand, the hour of Eurasia. The great war of the continents is approaching.”

With respect to the Third Civilization I offer The Third Rome (http://orthodoxwiki.org/Third_Rome) an ancient doctrine that goes back to the First Bulgar Empire as an alternative to the Western Rome in Italy and the Eastern Rome of Constantinople.

With respect to Orthodox mysticism I offer Rasputin (http://www.biography.com/people/rasputin-9452162).

And to prove that mysticism is not strictly a Russian problem I offer Jack van Impe on Gog and Magog (http://www.claywatts.com/endvanim.htm)

Some idiocies are self-fulfilling prophecies.

Russia may be foolish, fascist, backward and all the rest ..... but it is not inactive.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on March 24, 2014, 11:56:24
As usual, the combination of nationalist, xenophobic politics, ignorance  and fundamentalist religion never produces anything good. I see very little difference between the role of the Orthodox Church in fanning the Serbian nationalist flames in FRY in the early 90s or its antics in Russia now, and the rantings of  the religious right in the US as well as is various political mouthpieces.

If you oppose them, you oppose God.

These movements tend to obscure or demonize rational thinking, drum up the mobs of the ignorant and easily-led, and contribute to an atmosphere of self-righteousness, as to who can be the first to bring on the Apocalypse, or Armageddon, or whatever other mass bloodletting it is that will lead to "God's dominion on earth".

The US Founding Fathers had it right when they spoke about the "Separation of Church and State".
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 25, 2014, 12:08:42
Russia, or at leas Vladimr Putin's true goals may be to dismember Liberal Democracy in the States surrounding Russia. Compliant authoratarian States are easier to manage, but also don provide an attractiove alternative to the autocratic model of Russian rule to its own population:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/articles/2014/03/19/putins-real-target-democracy-in-russia-and-beyond/

Quote
Putin’s Real Target: Democracy in Russia and Beyond
Arch Puddington, David J. Kramer

Vladimir Putin considers stable, prosperous, rule-of-law democracies along Russia’s border as a threat because of what they represent: the possibility of an alternative to autocratic rule in Russia.
 
Published on March 19, 2014

Vladimir Putin’s brazen invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea are a frontal assault not only on Ukraine’s territorial integrity but also on the very concept of freedom and the ability of people to choose their political destiny.
 
The outcome of the crisis—and the response by the West—may determine the prospects for democracy for Russia’s neighbors and beyond Eurasia.
 
For some time, Putin has resented attempts to build democratic governments on Russia’s periphery. To be sure, Putin has clashed with neighboring autocrats from time-to-time. But when dictators like Alexander Lukashenka of Belarus have been challenged by reform movements, Putin has invariably sided with the forces of despotism. At the same time, he has imposed trade restrictions on Poland, waged cyber warfare against Estonia, incited Russians in Latvia to undermine that country, and occupied Georgian territory. More recently, the Kremlin initiated a campaign of economic sabotage against Moldova after that country decided to join the EU’s Eastern Partnership agreement.
 
Much of the commentary, especially from foreign policy ultra-realists, has spoken blandly of Russia’s desire to exercise “influence” over Ukraine and other states formerly under Soviet control. But to Russia’s leaders, influence means more than proper diplomatic and economic relations with Moscow. Putin’s overarching objective is to control a country’s leadership and political direction. While he is most comfortable if a country has a system similar to Russia’s—a modern authoritarianism with empty trappings of democracy—he has tolerated governments that are somewhat more open but with mediocre, corrupt leaders who are well disposed to Russia, like Ukraine’s recently deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.
 
Russia’s most stable neighbors are the three Baltic states and Poland, democracies rooted in rule of law, and they also are members of the EU and NATO. And yet Putin considers them a threat because of what they represent. Democracy, transparency, rule of law, and respect for human rights are concepts that clash with the corrupt, authoritarian model Putin is intent on creating in Russia and along its borders. Greater democracy in neighboring states, he fears, could generate demand for meaningful freedoms inside Russia itself.
 
To staunch demand for liberalization, Putin has based his presidency on the suppression of the political opposition, and he has achieved this by marginalizing opposition parties and by relentlessly crushing civil society. He has taken special aim at dissident activists because he is aware of the role that civil society has played in promoting change in Ukraine, Georgia, and the Arab world.
 
Early on, Putin masterfully established control over messaging. From the beginning of his rule, command and control of the media have underpinned Putin’s governing strategy, including his takeover of two nationwide, privately held television networks. Russia today approaches the status of a classic propaganda state. Russia’s media focus single-mindedly on portraying the President as the latest in a line of great Russian strongmen, on promoting his policies, and especially on demonizing his opponents.
 
Propaganda is a permanent project for the Kremlin. The Russian media needed no time to prepare once Putin made the decision to annex Crimea and threaten to expand his intervention to eastern Ukraine. The propaganda offensive began immediately. Crimea was cut off from Ukrainian television and exposed to fabricated accounts of the depredations of Ukrainian fascists and the oppression of Crimean Russians. Ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine understand the grim implications of annexation. Some have told Western journalists that, whatever their reservations about the new Ukrainian authorities, they do not want to become citizens of Putin’s Russia. Those views are even more firmly held by ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars (24 and 12 percent of the population, respectively) living in Crimea.
 
Putin publicly blames the United States for the political movements that have overthrown despots in recent years. But behind his assertions is a deep apprehension that a stable democracy next door would threaten the legitimacy of his own repressive model. If he succeeds in grabbing Crimea, he is sure to mobilize his formidable weapons to destabilize the rest of Ukraine, in effect warning off the European Union and NATO, and to impose a new doctrine of limited sovereignty on Russia’s neighbors.
 
Beyond Eurasia, Russia has taken the leading role in a coalition of authoritarian regimes that provide diplomatic, economic, and occasionally military support for beleaguered dictators like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Not surprisingly, Russian officials have made clear their hope that democracy in the Arab world will fail.
 
When Putin assumed the Russian presidency in 2000, prospects for progress toward freedom in Eurasia seemed promising. In the intervening years, political conditions have deteriorated to the point that people living in the post-Soviet sphere face levels of repression as severe as those experienced in the Middle East. Putin is not solely responsible for this. But he is the principal enabler. He has recently gone a step further by arguing that his system—with its political prisoners, anti-gay and anti-immigrant campaigns, and noisy propaganda—is as desirable and legitimate as Western liberal democracy as a model for other countries.
 
Western leaders must recognize that the serious threats posed by Russian expansionism include challenges to freedom of speech, honest elections, the rights of minorities, and a just legal system—the foundational values of liberal society. Accordingly, the response to events in Ukraine must be strong and swift—tough sanctions against Putin and his regime and support for the Ukrainian people. Left unchallenged in a serious way, Putin’s “success” in Ukraine will whet his appetite for further campaigns to expand Russia’s influence at democracy’s expense.

David J. Kramer is president of Freedom House. Arch Puddington is vice president for research at that organization.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 29, 2014, 13:19:52
Russia's Declining Influence

Warsaw Pact - Died 1989

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrzgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, East Germany

USSR - Died 1991

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrzgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, East Germany

CIS

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrzgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, East Germany

CSTO 1991

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrzgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, East Germany

SCO 2001 (Competing Organization - Attracts the Stans to Beijing - Belarus only given observer status - also attracts other Asian nations)

China, Mongolia

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrzgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, East Germany

Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Iran, Turkey, ASEAN

Eurasian Union 2010

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrzgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, East Germany

Crimea Supporters 2014

Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrzgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, East Germany

How much of that contraction has happened on Vlad's watch?  What has he prevented?  What has he hastened?


Add in the following separatist threats within Russia

Chechenya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Udmurtia, Chuvashia, Prussia, Sakha, Siberia, Tuva (there are others without "official" party organizations)

And Vlad's increasing references to Ethnic Russians as opposed to Civil Russians and you can discern a desperate man, increasingly isolated, struggling to find a means of hanging on to power even as he feels the noose contract.

Times are becoming more interesting for both us (of the broad West) and the Chinese.







Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 29, 2014, 16:01:49
Crimean Vote Galvanizes Russian Separatists

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/crimea-vote-galvanizes-separatists-in-russia/496142.html

Russia Movements Towards Sovereignty

http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-11404.html

Particularly interesting is this

Quote
The enormous Republic of Sakha in north-central Siberia, rich in diamonds and other minerals, exemplifies the threat that secession poses to the Russian Federation. Sakha has declared that its local laws supersede those imposed from Moscow and that it will retain all revenues generated by the sale and use of its resources. The republic also has accepted substantial direct development investment from Japan and China. Many members of Sakha's Russian majority have sided with the indigenous population in supporting self-government or full independence. Experts believe that such regions as Sakha, Tatarstan, and Bashkortostan theoretically have sufficient natural wealth to become viable independent entities. According to estimates, these regions' secession from the Russian Federation would deprive Russia of half of its oil, most of its diamonds, and much of its coal, as well as a substantial portion of such industries as automobile manufacturing.

taken together with these

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/ca/Russia_natural_population_growth_rates_2012.PNG/400px-Russia_natural_population_growth_rates_2012.PNG)

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/88/Russians_in_Russian_regions_2010.png/400px-Russians_in_Russian_regions_2010.png)

And you clearly see the Ethnic Russians dying and the Non-Russians growing further and further away from Moscow.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: tomahawk6 on March 29, 2014, 16:37:48
Considering tht Siberia is overrun with Chinese,Putin better look to the east and restore Russian control over its border.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Hisoyaki on March 30, 2014, 03:32:22
What most in the West forget is that Putin has an 80% approval rate. If anything, the Crimean crisis have solidified popular support at home. I don't think his approval ratings ever dipped below 60% in his 10+ or so years in power.

That was in spite of a 10 years insurgency in Chechnya that cost some 7000 casualties amongst Russian troops.

Plenty of dictators hold on to power in spite of bad economic conditions.

E.g. Iranian mullahs, Fidel Castro, Soviet Union, Hugo Chavez,etc. 
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 30, 2014, 10:05:08
Some good advice, in my opinion anyway, from Prof Stephen Sestanovich (Columbia University), in this opinion piece which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/opinion/putins-reckless-gamble.html?_r=0
Quote
(http://www.achieveglobal.com/userfiles/images/In%20the%20News/new-york-times-logo_small.jpg)
Putin’s Reckless Gamble

By STEPHEN SESTANOVICH

MARCH 29, 2014

President Obama’s meetings with European leaders last week made clear how much they hoped Russia, having seized Crimea, would call off any further dismemberment of Ukraine. They may get their wish, whether or not President Vladimir V. Putin’s telephone call Friday to Mr. Obama bears diplomatic fruit. But to assure Ukraine’s survival, the United States and Europe need a more ambitious strategy. To avoid a new Cold War, we must learn the right lessons from the old one.

The best reason to think President Putin is in fact seeking a break in the action is that his policy to date has been one improvisation after another. For weeks, he urged Ukraine’s leaders to crack down on protesters. When doing so brought down the Ukrainian government and created still more disorder in Kiev, Mr. Putin’s original goal — to draw the whole country into his orbit — seemed hopelessly out of reach. His impulsive response — grabbing Crimea, the one piece of Ukraine already under de facto Russian control — has brought him a quick 10 percent jump in popularity at home (and given him a new tool, nationalist hysteria, with which to control dissent). It has also produced the most extreme international isolation Moscow has felt since Leonid I. Brezhnev invaded Afghanistan.

Mr. Putin needs a breather. If he forswears further territorial aims in Ukraine, he will get no early rollback of the sanctions Europe and America have imposed. But he can probably avoid new ones. So much discussion has focused on the risk of a Russian blitzkrieg into eastern Ukraine that, when it doesn’t happen, many Western policy makers will breathe a sigh of relief. Mr. Putin could then work to cool European and American indignation, and get our leaders bickering with one another about the next step. With that, he — and we — might think the worst was over.

Would it be? Russian actions have been so shocking that their impact will certainly linger. Mr. Putin has won himself a reputation as a wrecker of international norms. He’ll have to live with that for a while. Yet the real damage to Russian diplomacy goes far beyond the question of personal trust.

By undermining Ukrainian statehood, Mr. Putin has made it impossible to call off the crisis. Over more than 20 years, Ukraine’s leaders, however corrupt and incompetent, have been extremely responsible about the question of national unity. Despite ethnic resentment and suspicion, they never contemplated breaking up the country. This was the third rail of Ukrainian politics, and very few were willing to touch it. Secession was taboo.

Now Mr. Putin has put the question of a breakup on the national agenda. And it can’t easily be taken off. Fractious nationalism — not invasion — is Ukraine’s real vulnerability. Even without a grand plan to dismember his neighbor, Mr. Putin has recklessly whipped up patriotic sentiment and groups on both sides of the border. Such forces have a life of their own. Moscow may offer separatists in eastern Ukraine active support or mere rhetoric. Either way, the threat is a permanent one. As in Crimea, Mr. Putin can turn the “protection of Russian speakers” into outright aggression almost overnight.

To limit this danger, the United States and Europe have to address Ukraine’s many weaknesses. Economic success is important; American loan guarantees, the International Monetary Fund’s new $18 billion stabilization program and the opening of the European Union’s market will help.

But the problem goes beyond matters of trade, currency or economic growth. It goes beyond even the issues of corruption and the rule of law. Ukraine’s institutions function poorly across the board, from its military to its police and border guards, from local government to political parties. When ethnic resentments were under control, this poor performance didn’t matter. Now it could produce a new crisis.

American policy has rarely excelled at “nation building.” Even the rigors of European Union accession, or of I.M.F. assistance, which demand reform and modernization, offer no surefire solution. In Europe and America, budgets are tight and attention spans short. But unless our policy makers understand the huge scope of the problem, they will someday wake up to discover Ukraine’s viability at risk again.

No one wants to revive the Cold War. But it offers lessons for today. In the 1940s, the authors of “containment” saw nation building as the key to success. They wanted to check Russian power without war, and believed that across Western Europe, once viable societies were so deeply divided that they might not survive. Those nations’ political and economic models, like Ukraine’s today, were broken. They would not hold together without what Dean Acheson called “the added power and energy of America.”

What made “containment” successful was not the infliction of pain on the Soviet Union. The heart of American policy was to revive, stabilize and integrate countries on our side of the line. Yes, we worried that Stalin had been able to bring down the government in Prague. We worried even more that he might do so in Rome and Paris. Successful nation building eventually dispelled those fears. In time, even Eastern Europe got its chance to build successful pluralist societies, but only because years earlier Western Europe had done the same.

A policy that saw the parallels between the dangers of the ’40s and those of today would never — ever — accept the annexation of Crimea. But it would not make reversing it the most urgent goal. Our real challenge is to keep Mr. Putin from any temptation to break up one of the biggest countries in Europe. It may take years, even decades, of effort, just as it did from the 1940s on, to know whether our policy has succeeded. Unless it does, we will face a far more dangerous crisis than the one over Crimea.

----------
Stephen Sestanovich, a professor of international diplomacy at Columbia University, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the United States ambassador at large for the former Soviet Union from 1997 to 2001, is the author of “Maximalist: America in the World From Truman to Obama.”


I think Prof Sestanovich has the big things about right: we don't want, certainly don't need, a new "cold war;" Europe, large parts of it, remains, as it was in the 1940s, weak and disorganized; containment works; and Russia is not anywhere near as powerful nor as capable as we might frighten ourselves into believing.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 30, 2014, 13:41:10
Some other graphics to ponder:

The border shared by Kazakhstan, Russia, China and Mongolia on the Altai

(http://www.insecta-web.org/MWM/images/museum/yakovlev_ex_8.jpg)

Population Density

(http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/a0310e/A0310E07.jpg)

And below my own contribution.

To the west of aging Moscow is aging Europe.  To the south is the Turko-Scythian insurgency (to include the Uighurs of China's Xinjiang province - and the equally restive Buddhist province of Tibet in China).  To the east is a younger, more ethnically diverse population where even the Russians are not particularly tied to Moscow (forcible relocations, inmates of the Gulag and Gulag guards put some pressures on their patriotism, I am sure). 

Throughout Russia proper are many locations where the authority of Moscow is challenged.   In the far east Japan and China are bypassing Moscow and talking to the locals to make their own investment deals directly.  And in the 90's the direct route to Vladivostock and the Magadan ran through Seattle and past Sarah Palin's backyard.

Vlad may have an 80% approval rating but this is likely concentrated in the same way that Marois's support is concentrated.

One of his problem's is that his strongest support comes from Rus of Moscow and pensioners.   The farther from Moscow the weaker his support - and he is not likely to get large numbers of pensioners to resettle to the East to increase his hold in that territory.

Russia's East is like Joel Garreau's Empty Quarter (http://www.garreau.com/main.cfm?action=chapters&id=27) - resource rich, people poor, and a puzzle to the pensioners of the Blue State cities that suckle from it.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 30, 2014, 14:43:23
What most in the West forget is that Putin has an 80% approval rate. If anything, the Crimean crisis have solidified popular support at home. I don't think his approval ratings ever dipped below 60% in his 10+ or so years in power.

That was in spite of a 10 years insurgency in Chechnya that cost some 7000 casualties amongst Russian troops.

Plenty of dictators hold on to power in spite of bad economic conditions.

E.g. Iranian mullahs, Fidel Castro, Soviet Union, Hugo Chavez,etc.

If you read history carefully, you will see lots of seemingly invincible dictatorships and authoratarian governments which lasted for a long time, but then suddenly crumbled like dust. The former USSR is, in fact one of these regimes.

The problem is that these regimes are brittle and rigid. So long as the stresses (internal or external) are low enough, or within limits, they can resist much like a structural element in a building or a car. However, like a structural element which is repeatedly stressed, it develops faults or accumulates stress unevenly, which can result in a catastrophic failure later when new or different stressors arise.

They can't even releave the stress through innovation or growth, since these are direct threats to the regime in power and whatever support base it has (think of crony capitalists and then multiply by 10), and generally, htese sorts of regimes cannot reatact quicly to many tipes of events because they are centralized regimes and suffer from the "Local Knowledge Problem" (where local actors can react to fleeting opportunities, while the time it takes to communicate the event, process it, issue directives and take action via central command and control means the opportunity is gone before the action takes place).

So Putin might have solid "approval" ratings, and appear strong, but who knows where the hidden fault line is, or what will trigger it? Very few people predicted the total collapse of the USSR how or when it happened (the event was totally dumbfounding for most), and if/when Putin or Russia go down, it will seem similarly surprising.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on March 30, 2014, 19:09:42
Facta non verba. Russia has a growing birth rate, sits on Europe's supply of gas, has a military that is no paper tiger, and has clout whether we like it or not. 
What they don't have is crippling debt, nor is their GDP less than the little debt they do have.
We can talk about how the rotten structure is about to collapse all we want, but more and more it sounds like what the Germans were saying about the USSR in 1941.
They get and understand force like we do. If we want to contain them, then park a carrier battlegroup in international waters in the Baltic,  in the Arctic near Murmansk, in the Black Sea and one in the Pacific off of Vladivostok.  Then politely ask them to dial down the rhetoric. And by "them", I mean Ukraine.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 30, 2014, 20:57:06
Russia has a growing birth rate..... but it is in the East and highest amongst the "subject peoples".

Russia sits on Europe's supply of gas .... currently and Europe doesn't like it and China wants it

Russia has a military that is no paper tiger .... but it is not what it used to was

Russia has clout.... stipulated without contention

Russia doesn't have crippling debt .... but it needs cash flow to convert gas into pensions and tanks

Our problems will not be solved by waiting for Russia to collapse.  It will get more dangerous before that happens. 

Equally we are not equipped materially or psychologically to go invading Eurasia.  What happens there will happen and we will adapt, adjust and accomodate - or be silly buggers and go broke.

They do indeed understand force - but only if we actually intend to allow people to start squeezing triggers when "red lines" are crossed. 

No indication of that to date.

And no, I don't propose turning my back on any man or woman that chooses to decide their own fate.  So long as they keep their fist away from my nose.

More thoughts from Sakha (http://www.geocurrents.info/place/russia-ukraine-and-caucasus/siberia/sakha-yakutia-since-the-fall-of-the-soviet-union):

Quote
With the demise of the Soviet Union, Sakha, like the rest of the vast country, underwent a wrenching transition. The leaders of the Republic tried to take advantage of the confusion to realize their long-standing desire for independence, and therefore declared Yakutia’s sovereignty in 1991. Such a declaration had little significance, but during the rest of the decade Sakha did achieve an unaccustomed degree of political and economic autonomy. By the late 1990s, John Tichotsky could write that, “In the area of regional sovereignty, Sakha is the leader among all of Russia’s political units” (p. 227).

Source: http://www.geocurrents.info/place/russia-ukraine-and-caucasus/siberia/sakha-yakutia-since-the-fall-of-the-soviet-union#ixzz2xUbToM5S

Quote
The post-Soviet transition also brought major economic changes. Industrial production plummeted; according to Tichotsky, of all Soviet regions only Kamchatka experienced a greater decline. Personal income dropped as well, and the average life expectancy slipped by three years. As state farms were broken up and herds privatized, livestock was slaughtered with abandon, temporarily increasing meat consumption. But as Tichotsky also specifies, Sakha experienced a more rapid economic recovery than the other parts of the former Soviet Union. Driven mainly by diamond mining, the republic matched and then surpassed its previous level of economic output. In 1995, almost half of its industrial production derived from diamond mining. Currently, Sakha is considerably richer than Russia as a whole on the basis of per capita GRP (Gross Regional Product), with 2009 figures of $18,955 and $12,339 respectively. But such apparent wealth by no means benefits all the people of Sakha. As is true elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, the end the communist system generated both winners and losers. Pensioners in particular have suffered, as their allotments have failed to keep pace with inflation.

Source: http://www.geocurrents.info/place/russia-ukraine-and-caucasus/siberia/sakha-yakutia-since-the-fall-of-the-soviet-union#ixzz2xUbiLKpN

Quote
The end of the Soviet system also resulted in the demographic transformation of Yakutia. In 1989, the Sakha were a minority within their own republic, accounting for thirty-three percent of the region’s total population, as opposed to the fifty-seven percent constituted by Russians and Ukrainians. As can be seen in the Wikipedia graph posted here, the Russian population dropped sharply after the political transition, as large numbers of Russians abandoned the harsh land of Yakutia in favor of larger cities and milder climes  (interpolation - like Crimea). At the same time, the Sakha  ethnic population continued to grown, due mainly to a relatively high birth rate. This trend continues: according to the 2002 census, the Sakha then numbered 432,290, constituting 45.5 percent of the republic’s population; in 2010, they totaled 466,492, coming in at 49.9 percent. Other indigenous ethnic groups also expanded in the same period; the Evenks, for example, increased from 18,232 to 21,008 and the Yukaghirs from 1,097 to 1,281. Russians, Ukrainians and Tatars, on the other hand, all registered population declines in the republic from 2002 to 2010.

Source: http://www.geocurrents.info/place/russia-ukraine-and-caucasus/siberia/sakha-yakutia-since-the-fall-of-the-soviet-union#ixzz2xUbx26vb

Just as the American Southwest is changing,  and the influence of the Canadian East is diminishing so are Russia's fates changing for exactly the same reasons - Demographics.

As stated earlier - Russia is not yet the Ottoman Empire.  She's not that sick.  And the Ottoman's never had nukes.  Russia is going to be more dangerous than the Ottomans ever were.

But it doesn't strike me as a gesture of strength to be parking IRBMTBMs (Iskanders) in the Orenburg corridor between recently separated and unsupportive Kazakhstan and a bunch of restive oblasts with ethnic connections to the Kazakhs.  That Corridor is the gateway past the Urals to the Far East.

Edit:  My error on the Iskanders - 500 Km with the SS26 - 2000 km when launching P500 cruise missiles.

What are they going to use those missiles on?  Turks on ponies?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on March 30, 2014, 21:37:05


And no, I don't propose turning my back on any man or woman that chooses to decide their own fate.  So long as they keep their fist away from my nose.


So, you support the Crimeans then?  (I know I do)

Edit to add: if they voted to be part of Poland, then so be it.  They aren't my concern, and they voted to join Russia, who said "Okay".  The fact that the Black Sea Fleet is moored there, and that the Not Russian Army (NRA) was there, probably didn't hurt things either.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on March 30, 2014, 21:45:24
Russia has a growing birth rate..... but it is in the East and highest amongst the "subject peoples".
Still rising.  Ours is dropping, below replacement rate.  Denmark is trying to get its people to start ******* again. At least to stop using contraceptives.
Russia sits on Europe's supply of gas .... currently and Europe doesn't like it and China wants it
possession is 9/10ths and all that
Russia has a military that is no paper tiger .... but it is not what it used to was
I would argue that it's leaner and more effective than the old Soviet Army.  Its actions in Georgia and now in Crimea have been very well-run.
Russia has clout.... stipulated without contention

Russia doesn't have crippling debt .... but it needs cash flow to convert gas into pensions and tanks
True.  And it has starving customers in Europe (for now, anyway)
Our problems will not be solved by waiting for Russia to collapse.  It will get more dangerous before that happens. 
Hopefully it remains *just stable enough* to not collapse...
Equally we are not equipped materially or psychologically to go invading Eurasia.  What happens there will happen and we will adapt, adjust and accomodate - or be silly buggers and go broke.
Agreed.  And I would argue that it's going to get much worse (for us) and be silly.  I hope I'm wrong, but I fear I'm not.
They do indeed understand force - but only if we actually intend to allow people to start squeezing triggers when "red lines" are crossed. 

No indication of that to date.
Agreed.  Sadly.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 30, 2014, 22:54:32
My big concern is how we manage the next 5 to 10 years during which Europe can transition off Russian Gas -  the prices the Euros are paying for electricity (35 to 40 cents per kWH) and gas (20 USD per GJ) will allow them to import LNG from us and the Yanks, build pipelines across the Med and Black Sea and develop their own Shale and UCG industries.

During that time Russia will feel the pinch in cash flow, and lose influence in Europe.  The might offset the loss of cash with Chinese cash but will they offset the loss of influence?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: tomahawk6 on March 30, 2014, 23:51:23
If Libya stabilizes Europe will once again have a reliable source of energy.Throw in the huge gas field that the Israelis are developing and Russia may lose its leverage.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 31, 2014, 00:52:22
So, you support the Crimeans then?  (I know I do)

Edit to add: if they voted to be part of Poland, then so be it.  They aren't my concern, and they voted to join Russia, who said "Okay".  The fact that the Black Sea Fleet is moored there, and that the Not Russian Army (NRA) was there, probably didn't hurt things either.

To be honest....occasionally I find it necessary....  I don't have anything against the Crimeans deciding to join Russia.   But... It was done in an unseemly manner, in the wrong sequence and with external intervention.

Had they done it according to international norms (say in the manner of Gibraltar and Falklands) I would not have had any cause for complaint.   But Argies holding Marines hostage and running the polls with the Falkland Islanders boycotting the referendum.... I'm not so sure I would accept that outcome.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 04, 2014, 11:21:12
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The Economist is a useful infographic for those considering Europe's thirst for Russia's gas:

(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BkX6BFyIUAAnBJs.jpg:large)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on April 09, 2014, 13:52:35
Russia continues to make bold moves to capitalise on the inaction of the American led *West*. I suspect some of this activity is driven more by a need to make Russia stronger in relation to her continental neighbours, particularly the Islamic crescent and China rather than just poking a stick in Obama's eye. Having the economic ability to pull strings on Tehran makes Iran a useful puppet to keep the ME destabilized and offer a threat to others when it suits Russia's needs:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/blog/2014/04/07/russia-to-bust-the-iran-sanctions-regime/

Quote
Russia to Bust the Iran Sanctions Regime?

Western leaders appear to have found themselves something resembling a strategy for dealing with Vladimir Putin: hit him with sanctions while providing him with face-saving way of de-escalating the situation in Ukraine. Unfortunately for the West, Putin seems to have other plans:
 

As nuclear negotiations continue this week in Vienna, Moscow appears poised to openly flaunt the U.S.-led Iran sanctions regime. The move could undermine the Obama administration’s assurances that neither the Crimea crisis nor the recent de-escalation of sanctions would undercut U.S. leverage in its nuclear negotiations with Iran. [...]
 
The proposed deal, worth possibly $20 billion, would include Russian purchases of up to 500,000 bpd of Iranian oil—boosting Iranian exports by as much as 50% from levels permitted to Iran under the Geneva interim nuclear agreement—in exchange for Russian equipment and goods. The deal would ease further pressure on Iran’s battered energy sector and at least partially restore Iran’s access to oil customers with Russian help. There is further reason for concern that such a scheme could provide a channel for the transfer of sanctioned nuclear equipment or military hardware to Iran, not to mention other illicit financial transactions.
 
Combined with the announcement by Transnistrian separatists that they will not be attending the next round of talks with Moldova and the latest unrest in Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Lugansk (all of which provide more excuses for Putin to send his forces into Ukraine), a negotiated solution with Russia looks increasingly like a pipe dream. On the contrary, Putin is aiming to cause problems for the United States across the board.
 
Maybe it’s time to come up with a real Russia policy.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on April 09, 2014, 17:00:47
Here is an interesting piece by George Friedman of STRATFOR, in Geopolitical Weekly, addressing US defence policy since the Maidan Revolt in Kyiv:

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/us-defense-policy-wake-ukrainian-affair?utm_source=freelist-f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20140408&utm_term=Gweekly&utm_content=readmore (http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/us-defense-policy-wake-ukrainian-affair?utm_source=freelist-f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20140408&utm_term=Gweekly&utm_content=readmore)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on April 12, 2014, 04:05:22
Here is an interesting piece by George Friedman of STRATFOR, in Geopolitical Weekly, addressing US defence policy since the Maidan Revolt in Kyiv:

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/us-defense-policy-wake-ukrainian-affair?utm_source=freelist-f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20140408&utm_term=Gweekly&utm_content=readmore (http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/us-defense-policy-wake-ukrainian-affair?utm_source=freelist-f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20140408&utm_term=Gweekly&utm_content=readmore)

Halford Mackinder lives!

This article could also be posted in the Grand Strategy for a Divided America thread as well.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on April 12, 2014, 13:42:17
"Give me a place to stand on  and a lever long enough and I will move the world".  Archimedes.

The closer you get to the fulcrum the shorter the lever gets and the harder it is to exert influence.    Try standing in the middle of a teeter-totter and stop the teeter-tottering.

Russia exists at the fulcrum of the teeter-totter.  It is easier for things to be done to it than it is for it to do things. 

Put it another way - without lots of cash to buy influence it is terminally ******.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on April 12, 2014, 21:49:25
"Give me a place to stand on  and a lever long enough and I will move the world".  Archimedes.

The closer you get to the fulcrum the shorter the lever gets and the harder it is to exert influence.    Try standing in the middle of a teeter-totter and stop the teeter-tottering.

Russia exists at the fulcrum of the teeter-totter.  It is easier for things to be done to it than it is for it to do things. 

Put it another way - without lots of cash to buy influence it is terminally ******.

I'm not sure. You might ask the Poles, Balts, Rumanians and other small countries in Putin's "'hood": even a cash--strapped Russia might still be frightening for them: maybe even more so if it's impending financial ruin, combined with the usual collection of unpleasant Russian national traits such as rabid nationalism, bully tendencies and xenophobia (underlain by a secret jealousy and frustration that they can never quite "get" modern Western society as well as some others do...), provoke it do do some dangerous thing in desperation or as a show of force.

I've slagged them quite a bit on these pages, but in seriousness it may be a dangerous mistake to underestimate them.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on April 13, 2014, 01:44:32
I don't underestimate them.  Nor, I am sure do their neighbours.  The Poles in particular are taking this situation seriously.  They have been steadily building their own military and reaching out to the rest of Russia's neighbours - offering an agricultural programme here, an industrial programme there.

They are creating their own net of bilateral agreements in the area - all the way from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  I don't think they will wait for NATO to come and save them this time.  They have seen that movie recently.

With respect to Russia's activity - I believe that that proves the point.  Russia, like the man on the teeter totter, has to be constantly active, constantly expending energy, just to maintain its balance.  It doesn't feel it has the luxury of just sitting back and letting the world go by.  If it isn't acting it is being acted upon.... Hence my previous crude expression of its condition.

The problem with that is that Russia is as likely to over-react as react appropriately ... or at least the people leading her.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 13, 2014, 12:02:33
I just saw this:

(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BlHAwT9IYAABECD.jpg)
Caption: "Allow me to give you a glimpse inside my mind & personality,"
says Vladimir Putin

I have frequently read reports that many, many Russians yearn for a new Stalin. They think that Stalin represented the zenith of Russian achievement: defeating the hated Germans, building the bombs, setting Russia (the USSR, of course) on the path to the stars and so on. They willfully ignore how those things happened but they remember, or think they do, anyway, that they did happen and Russia was great.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on April 13, 2014, 12:32:20
I just saw this:

(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BlHAwT9IYAABECD.jpg)
Caption: "Allow me to give you a glimpse inside my mind & personality,"
says Vladimir Putin

I have frequently read reports that many, many Russians yearn for a new Stalin. They think that Stalin represented the zenith of Russian achievement: defeating the hated Germans, building the bombs, setting Russia (the USSR, of course) on the path to the stars and so on. They willfully ignore how those things happened but they remember, or think they do, anyway, that they did happen and Russia was great.

I think he's one step further back: the Russian Empire of old.  Stalin was (officially) atheist and all that, while Putin (et al) appear to be embracing the Russian Orthodox Church.  No matter what it is, Russians seem to be yearning for a Czar.  And Putin seems to know this quite well.  His image betrays that:

(http://cdn.cnwimg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/putin-power.jpg)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on April 13, 2014, 15:31:56
I don't underestimate them.  Nor, I am sure do their neighbours.  The Poles in particular are taking this situation seriously.  They have been steadily building their own military and reaching out to the rest of Russia's neighbours - offering an agricultural programme here, an industrial programme there.

They are creating their own net of bilateral agreements in the area - all the way from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  I don't think they will wait for NATO to come and save them this time.  They have seen that movie recently.

With respect to Russia's activity - I believe that that proves the point.  Russia, like the man on the teeter totter, has to be constantly active, constantly expending energy, just to maintain its balance.  It doesn't feel it has the luxury of just sitting back and letting the world go by.  If it isn't acting it is being acted upon.... Hence my previous crude expression of its condition.

The problem with that is that Russia is as likely to over-react as react appropriately ... or at least the people leading her.

The Poles are a logical choice to lead a "Central European Zone", having the largest and most "organized" state, as well as being wary of both the Russians to the East and the Germans to the West. Culturally, the linkage with Central European nations from the Baltic to the Black Sea also makes more sense than (say) reaching to the Nordic nations, the German Zone, the "Latin Zone", Britain or the Balkans.

I suspect that in the long term, the EUZone will become much more polarized between these various factions, even if the EU itself continues to exist as a sort of shadow of its former self (the various regional blocks will probably work to sharply limit the powers of the EU Parliament and bureaucracy, for example). While Obama may joke about the '80's calling for their foreign policy back, in the real world 19th century "balance of power" is reasserting itself.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on April 13, 2014, 18:13:39
Quote
I have frequently read reports that many, many Russians yearn for a new Stalin. They think that Stalin represented the zenith of Russian achievement: defeating the hated Germans, building the bombs, setting Russia (the USSR, of course) on the path to the stars and so on. They willfully ignore how those things happened but they remember, or think they do, anyway, that they did happen and Russia was great.

Quote
I think he's one step further back: the Russian Empire of old.  Stalin was (officially) atheist and all that, while Putin (et al) appear to be embracing the Russian Orthodox Church.  No matter what it is, Russians seem to be yearning for a Czar.  And Putin seems to know this quite well.  His image betrays that

I think you are both right. My gut feeling is that "democracy" is meaningless rubbish and confusion to most Russians. They yearn, secretly or openly, for the "Father King" figure. That, I think , is when they are at their happiest. Combine this with what I think is a deep-running streak of brutality and willful ignorance in their society, and you don't get anything nice.

Quote
The Poles are a logical choice to lead a "Central European Zone", having the largest and most "organized" state, as well as being wary of both the Russians to the East and the Germans to the West. Culturally, the linkage with Central European nations from the Baltic to the Black Sea also makes more sense than (say) reaching to the Nordic nations, the German Zone, the "Latin Zone", Britain or the Balkans.

This would be an interesting return to Polish pre-WWII foreign policy that sought to establish a "Third Europe" of  Eastern states led (of course...) by Warsaw. They saw this a necessary balance against Germany in the West and the USSR in the East, without having to rely too much on external guarantors like France or Britain.

In 2008 I attended a Corps exercise in western Poland. The enemy was very clearly Russia. The Poles envisioned losing the eastern part of their country, then falling back on successive river lines until NATO could help them, but clearly carrying the brunt of the fight on their own.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: George Wallace on April 14, 2014, 08:56:03
I think he's one step further back: the Russian Empire of old.  Stalin was (officially) atheist and all that, while Putin (et al) appear to be embracing the Russian Orthodox Church.  No matter what it is, Russians seem to be yearning for a Czar.  And Putin seems to know this quite well.  His image betrays that:



Putin is definitely a Type A personality.  With his numerous bare-chested photo ops and his affiliation with the Nochniye Volki (the Night Wolves) biker group (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/europe/article4036551.ece) and the Russian chapters of Hells Angels.  I think you may be heading down the right avenue.  Stalin, not doubt, considered himself as the 'Czar', if not by name.  Putin and Bikers photos (https://www.google.ca/search?q=putin+bikers&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=AMhLU4a7Acmf2QW8lYC4BQ&sqi=2&ved=0CCcQsAQ&biw=1920&bih=955#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=gmqt79vC4icXYM%253A%3BLyxszy2wAvJtoM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fi.dailymail.co.uk%252Fi%252Fpix%252F2011%252F03%252F24%252Farticle-1369485-0B4FFF9100000578-679_634x423.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.dailymail.co.uk%252Fnews%252Farticle-1369485%252FVladimir-Putin-polishes-macho-image-Night-Wolves-Belgrade.html%3B634%3B423) would tend to indicate that he wants to show affiliations with all classes of Russians, especially the classes other than the 'upper more mobile', yet still hold the reign of power over all.  He definitely knows how to control how his image is portrayed.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on April 17, 2014, 00:19:43
In 1917 the Russian war effort collapsed amid bread riots.  In 1918 Germans gave up when they were reduced to eating turnips.


New York Times Article (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/world/europe/russia-economy-worsens-even-before-sanctions-hit.html?action=click&contentCollection=Europe&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&pgtype=article)

Quote
Russia Economy Worsens Even Before Sanctions Hit
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORNAPRIL 16, 2014

MOSCOW — Margarita R. Zobnina, a professor of marketing here, has been watching the Russian economy’s gathering woes with mounting alarm: friends who have moved abroad with no plans to return; others who put off new business ventures because of rising uncertainty. Meanwhile, Ms. Zobnina and her husband, Alexander, also a professor, have rented a safe deposit box to hold foreign cash as a hedge against the declining ruble.

Most shocking, she says, is that her local grocery is now selling anchovies packed in sunflower oil rather than olive oil, an obvious response to the soaring cost of imports. “That really freaks me out,” she said.

While the annexation of Crimea has rocketed President Vladimir V. Putin’s approval rating to more than 80 percent, it has also contributed to a sobering downturn in Russia’s economy that appears to be worsening even before Western sanctions take full effect. With inflation rising, growth stagnating, the ruble and stock market plunging, and billions in capital fleeing the country for safety, the economy is teetering on the edge of recession, as the country’s minister of economic development acknowledged on Wednesday.

Mr. Putin, who just lavished $50 billion on the Sochi Olympics, also must absorb the costs of integrating Crimea, which economists and other experts say has its own sickly economy and expensive infrastructure needs. The economic costs have been masked by recent patriotic fervor but could soon haunt the Kremlin, as prices rise, wages stall and consumer confidence erodes.

Even before the Crimean episode, and the resulting imposition of sanctions by the West, Russia’s $2 trillion economy was suffering from stagflation, that toxic mix of stagnant growth and high inflation typically accompanied by a spike in unemployment. In Russia, joblessness remains low, but only because years of population decline have produced a shrunken, inadequate labor force.

In recent weeks, international and Russian banks have slashed their growth projections for 2014, with the World Bank saying the economy could shrink by 1.8 percent if the West imposes more sanctions over Ukraine. By some accounts, more than $70 billion in capital has fled the country so far this year and the main stock market index fell by 10 percent in March — and a dizzying 3 percent just on Tuesday over fears of greater Russian involvement in Ukraine.

“This is our fee of sorts for conducting an independent foreign policy,” Aleksei L. Kudrin, a former Russian finance minister, said at a recent investor conference in Moscow. He added that the sanctions and the fallout from Mr. Putin’s foreign policy moves would drain hundreds of billions of dollars from the national economy and strangle growth for the remainder of the year.

But Mr. Kudrin, who quit his post in a dispute over the Kremlin’s economic policies, said the population had yet to confront the full bill, which he predicted would grow as a result of the steep costs of absorbing Crimea, a geographically isolated peninsula. “Society has not yet seen the final result, and that will be when this puts the brakes on real incomes,” he said. “For now, society accepts this fee.”

From a textbook perspective, the deep-rooted ills in Russia’s economy have been clear for years: The decade-long skyrocketing in energy prices that buoyed Mr. Putin’s popularity has flatlined, exposing the country’s dangerous over-reliance on revenues from oil and natural gas. Efforts to diversify into manufacturing, high technology and other sectors have failed, and officials have been unable, or unwilling, to stop the rampant, corrosive corruption that scares off foreign investors.

Consumer demand, which had been a primary driver of the Russian economy in recent years, stalled hard in 2013. Surveys by the Levada Center, Russia’s only independent polling institute, show that consumer sentiment has been on a slow, steady decline since 2010, while fears of inflation — especially rising prices for basic necessities, which have persisted since the 1990s — have grown along with new anxiety about a potential drop in wages or rising unemployment.

“If you want to open your eyes, you would admit that it is a slow, downward trend of social optimism and consumer optimism,” said Marina Krasilnikova, who leads income and consumer research for the Levada Center.

“The situation with Ukraine and Crimea has resulted in patriotic and imperialistic optimism,” Ms. Krasilnikova said. But, she added, “this optimism will not last long.”

Some analysts said that Russia’s annexation of Crimea had proved that Mr. Putin puts politics ahead of reasonable economic decisions, and that there was little reason for economic optimism, particularly given his inward, xenophobic turn, including his vow to create Russia’s own cashless pay systems and even its own credit rating agency so it would not have to rely on the global financial system.

Miljenko Horvat, a private equity investor who ran Citibank’s office in Russia in the 1990s, said that Russia had simply failed to make itself economically relevant beyond its energy supplies.

Mr. Horvat, who now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, said that he often challenged his Russian friends by making the following point: “I wake up in the morning and drink coffee from a machine made by a Swiss company, Nescafé. I wear something that was designed in France or Italy but probably made in Turkey. I get into a German car, look at a Korean phone, use a computer that was designed in California but made in Japan or Korea. Russia just doesn’t touch me in my daily life. It just doesn’t matter. It’s just not relevant. So where is the economic engine going to come from?”

Mr. Horvat said that he had lived in Russia through defaults in 1991, 1993 and 1998 and that he expected another one. “I am not long in Russia,” he said, invoking the financial term for betting on a rising stock, “neither in my portfolio, nor in life.”

Given the recent turmoil, a catastrophe has been averted so far largely because the price of oil has remained stubbornly high, at nearly $110 per barrel of Brent crude on Wednesday, even as production steadily rises in the United States. For now, that has kept the federal budget in decent shape with still no deficit projected for the year.

But even without a shock, it is not clear how Russia will manage to climb out of the current quagmire. Stagflation is among the most confounding economic problems that policy makers can face, and officials here seem flummoxed, with the Central Bank, Finance Ministry and Economics Ministry urging contradictory steps.

Last month, the bank raised its key interest rate to 7 percent from 5.5 percent to combat inflation and support the ruble, a step that could slow growth. Meanwhile, the Economics Ministry, worried about growth, favors borrowing and government spending as a stimulus and to reduce capital flight, a possibly inflationary strategy that is opposed by the Finance Ministry, which wants to keep debt low and reserve funds available to weather any unexpected drop in oil prices.


“All of them have their clear priorities, and they stick to their priorities,” said Alexei Deviatov, the chief economist for Uralsib Capital, an investment bank here, “and there is very little coordination between these authorities.”

While Russian and global investors and businesses have been moving billions of dollars out of Russia to places perceived as less risky, it is not just money that is fleeing. Ms. Zobnina, who teaches at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said that one of her classmates had left for the United States after college 10 years ago, and that another friend followed three years ago to pursue a Ph.D., with no plans to return. Still another friend, a journalist, moved to London last summer with her husband and three children.

Ms. Zobnina, 32, said that she and her husband, 30, were thinking about finding posts in Europe or the United States, and for now were keeping their savings in dollars and euros. In an interview, she conceded that putting cash in a safe deposit box hardly amounted to sophisticated financial planning, particularly for two economics professors.

“It’s absolutely not rational to prefer safe box than deposit because you lose interest,” she said. “But in this unpredictable situation, when the ruble is falling and banks are unstable — and who knows when we’ll be cut off from the global financial system or which bank will be next to be closed — it’s better to have this small bird in hand.”
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 20, 2014, 16:06:48
The Economist gets it about right on this week's cover:

(http://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/print-cover-full/print-covers/20140419_cna400.jpg)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Retired AF Guy on April 20, 2014, 18:13:29
Now a little humour break.



Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on April 22, 2014, 18:45:20
You know what's funny, and a bit weird?

Go on the CBC.ca news site, and look up the latest article about the Ukraine/Russia situation. Look at the blog comments that, based on their similar content and fractured English, are almost certainly originating in Russia, possibly in an organized effort.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on April 23, 2014, 07:41:30
Go on the CBC.ca news site, and look up the latest article about the Ukraine/Russia situation. Look at the blog comments that, based on their similar content and fractured English, are almost certainly originating in Russia, possibly in an organized effort.
Could very well be.

Edit to add:


Here's a quote:

Quote
After CIA director visit Kyiv, few days after Ukraine announce anti-terrorist operations which failed dismally and now the US vice president visited Kyiv and again after he left they announce another anti-terrorist operation. That gives suggestion that US want another war to keep the economy going and they forgot that Ukraine military is in disarray and demoralized unless US/ NATO sends their own man in the front line of this anti-Ukraine operation.

The grammar is off enough on this to suggest it's of Slavic origin: lack of definite articles especially in some spots.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on April 23, 2014, 08:33:45
That's the very quote I was looking at this AM.

There seem to be several "repeat offenders" (or one person using several screen names). They generally harp on the same themes, with the same bad English. One I saw yesterday was a bit ominous (although probably a crackpot): he was rambling on about creating a "free Germany". The last time Russia was involved in Germany it wasn't very free, IIRC.

Occasionally they launch their rant-bombs in threads where the connection to the subject heading is either very thin, or non-existent. They might be keying on certain indicator words in the articles and posting accordingly, whether their post is actually relevant or not.

Or maybe they're just dumb.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 29, 2014, 08:44:45
Two reports, this morning, that illustrate the complexity of Russia's natural resource wealth and the ties it creates:

     1. The Financial Times reports that (http://www.ft.com/intl/fastft) "Gazprom said it was taking action to mitigate the impact of possible further western sanctions as it reported a 7 per cent drop in net profit last year ...
         the Russian state gas giant, the world's largest producer of natural gas, highlighted its plans to expand sales in Asia and said it was adopting incentives to encourage local sourcing among its suppliers and contractors, as
         it flagged the "material adverse effect" that any sanctions on the group would have ... Gazprom said that European plans to increase diversity of energy suppliers and move gas markets away from long-term contracts "may
         disrupt the balance of demand and supply in the European gas market and have unpredictable implications, including threaten energy security of importing countries" ... nonetheless, it highlighted its plans to increase supplies to Asia.
         The company hopes to sign a long-term supply contract with China next month when Russian president Vladimir Putin visits the country."

     2. The Wall Street Journal reports that (http://stream.wsj.com/story/deadly-clashes-in-ukraine/SS-2-457850/SS-2-518871/?mod=wsj_streaming_deadly-clashes-in-ukraine)  "Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder celebrated his 70th birthday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg Monday evening, as the U.S. and European Union stepped up sanctions against
          Moscow over its handling of the Ukraine crisis ... the meeting took place during a birthday reception organized by Mr. Schroeder’s employer Nord Stream AG, a pipeline operator controlled by Russian gas giant OAO Gazprom ...
          The meeting between Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Putin highlights divisions in Germany over Chancellor Merkel’s tough line against the Kremlin. Mr. Schroeder and former chancellor Helmut Schmidt, both Social Democrats, have repeatedly
          criticized the West’s handling of the crisis and its treatment of Mr. Putin over past weeks ... [and] Mr. Schroeder’s birthday reception was also attended by Erwin Sellering, the governor of the German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania,
          which is organizing a “Russia Day” to be held in the state in September."
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on May 11, 2014, 13:29:09
If Russia aims to flex its muscles militarily in this century, they have to wean themselves from the dependence on Ukrainian spare parts for some types of their military equipment as mentioned in the Ukraine-Crimea crisis thread below:

Russian military needs Ukrainian spare parts; Kiev's arms embargo may cripple the Kremlin (http://army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,111881.msg1308473/topicseen.html#new)

Or perhaps Chinese arms companies like NORINCO may see an opportunity to sell Russia reverse-engineered versions of those spare parts?  ;D
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 13, 2014, 18:43:43
Russia flexes another muscle, one which the USA has (foolishly) allowed to atrophy, according to this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Financial Times:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9338626e-dab7-11e3-8273-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz31dMNOgQw
Quote
(http://www.orchardplatform.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Financial-Times-Logo.jpg)
Russia moves to oust US from International Space Station

By Kathrin Hille in Moscow and Robert Wright in New York

Last updated: May 13, 2014

Russia is to deny the US use of the International Space Station beyond 2020 and will bar export of critical rocket engines to the US, in a move that has highlighted American dependence on Russian space technology.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, announced the measures in response to US sanctions against a series of Russian companies and officials over the Ukraine crisis.

The twin moves against the space and satellite programmes represent one high-tech niche in which Moscow believes it has leverage over the US.

Mr Rogozin pointed out that, following the US’s retirement of its space shuttle fleet amid National Aeronautics and Space Administration cuts in 2011, the US was no longer able to send astronauts to the station on its own.

“The Russian segment of the ISS can exist independently from the US one, but the US segment cannot exist independently from the Russian one,” Mr Rogozin said.

The effective ban on exports of MK-33 and RD-180 rocket motors could be of greater significance to the US. The RD-180 powers the Atlas rocket used by the United Launch Alliance joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin which puts the US’s most sensitive military satellites into orbit.

Mr Rogozin said the exports could continue if the US gave guarantees that the motors would not be used to launch military satellites. But, given ULA’s critical role in the US’s military satellite programme, such guarantees look unlikely.

“At the moment, US national security launches are heavily dependent on access to the Russian engine,” Loren Thompson, an analyst at the Virginia-based Lexington Institute, said.

As Moscow’s stand-off with Ukraine escalated in recent months into the worst falling-out with the west since the Cold War, both US and Russian diplomats had noted that the two powers continued to “do business” pragmatically in areas of global significance. “Space is obviously no longer part of that,” said one western diplomat.

Washington last month decided to revoke export licences for technology goods that can be used militarily by Russia and to refuse to extend new ones. Washington is also considering new restrictions on the export of high-tech equipment to develop Russia’s energy resources.

Moscow’s move against the ISS came in the form of a rejection of a US request to use the station beyond 2020. The ISS, jointly maintained by several countries, has been continuously manned by rotating missions for more than 13 years and is used for research, some of which is considered vital for further space exploration.

The move over the rocket motors comes after SpaceX, the space venture of Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, asked a federal court to bar the ULA from buying RD-180 motors. SpaceX said the purchases breached US sanctions against Mr Rogozin, who is also head of Russia’s space programme. SpaceX, which already carries out some launches of less sensitive satellites for the US government, does not use Russian engines and would like to break into launching the most sensitive satellites.

ULA said neither it nor NPO Energomash, its Russian supplier, had been made aware of any restrictions. But, if reports of the move were accurate, they affirmed that SpaceX’s “irresponsible actions” had created “unnecessary distractions, threatened US military satellite operations, and undermined [the US’s] future relationship with the International Space Station”.

“We are hopeful that our two nations will engage in productive conversations over the coming months that will resolve the matter quickly,” ULA said.

ULA added that it could switch to a second vehicle – Boeing’s Delta rocket – which used US-built motors and could meet all its customers’ needs. It also had a two-year supply of RD-180 motors “to enable a smooth transition to our other rocket”.

Mr Thompson said the US military strongly favoured using ULA for its most sensitive launches because of its flawless record of putting satellites safely into orbit. Most other rocket systems continue to suffer regular launch failures that destroy vehicle payloads.

“The Ukraine crisis has made policy makers reflect on the wisdom of relying on Russia for any type of lift requirements, either manned or unmanned,” Mr Thompson said.

Three astronauts – one American, one Russian and one Japanese – were due to leave the ISS in the early evening on Tuesday US eastern time to return to earth. They were due to land near Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. A further three astronauts – one American, one Russian and one German – are due to blast off for the space station from Kazakhstan on May 28.

Assuming Russia does not reconsider, its decision on the ISS could strengthen China, which aims to have its own space station by 2020 and is currently excluded from the ISS – chiefly because of opposition from the US.

Mr Rogozin said Moscow would not impose sanctions of its own, and would not obstruct the work of US astronauts. However, he called the US an “unreliable” technology partner and said the government was therefore seeking to intensify work with other countries.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, is due to present new plans for space exploration to parliament. Mr Rogozin said it was looking to redirect funds from manned space flight to other, more promising areas and had been advised to seek co-operation with Asian countries.

Russia also threatened to switch off 11 GPS ground stations on its territory unless the US agrees to its request to establish a similar station for its own satellite position system Glonass in the US. The GPS ground stations would be suspended from June 1 and switched off on September 1 if a bilateral working group failed to reach consensus on the Glonass issue, Mr Rogozin said.

GPS, on which services such as navigation and mapping apps rely, would still work as its satellites continue to operate. But it would lose accuracy because the ground stations help correct the satellite data.


The USA has starved NASA and, especially, the manned space programme - preferring to leave manned shuttle trips to the ISS to the Russians, and to allow China and India to play catch-up - while it, under both Presidents Bush and Obama, focuses spending on domestic, social targets.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on May 18, 2014, 19:37:57

Putin/Russia needs to be a bit cautious. China is not Europe. China will not allow Russia to turn off the gas or oil ... not even once.

And speaking of Chinese demand for Russian gas:

Quote
Putin heads to China as Ukraine sinks ties with West

By: Anna Smolchenko,

Agence France-Presse (http://www.afp.com/en/node/2403085)
 May 18, 2014 11:14 AM

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin heads to China on Tuesday to shore up eastern ties as relations with the West plunge to new lows over the Ukraine crisis.

During a two-day visit to Shanghai, Putin and Chinese host Xi Jinping will seek to clinch a raft of agreements including a landmark gas deal crucial for Moscow as Europe seeks to cut reliance on Russian oil and gas.

The two leaders will also take part in a regional security forum and oversee the start of joint naval exercises off Shanghai in the East China Sea.


Moscow's relations with the United States and European Union have dived to a post-Cold War low in recent months over Russia's seizure of Crimea and Western accusations the Kremlin is fomenting unrest in the east of Ukraine.

The West has slapped sanctions on some of Putin's closest allies and threatened broader punitive measures if Moscow disrupts presidential polls in Ukraine on May 25.

(...EDITED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 18, 2014, 20:17:30
It is, potentially, a good deal for both countries.

The advantages to China - supplies very close at hand, etc - are obvious. For Russia the main advantage is a reliable customer - high demand - with very, very large reserves of hard currency.

I cannot see a down side for China; for Russia the only down side is that China will, possibly, become its main customer - consider Canada and the USA and oil for an example of what's wrong with that relationship.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on May 20, 2014, 23:34:26
NO Gas deal????  ???

Quote
Russia Fails to Sign China Gas Deal at Shanghai Meeting

quote:
The presidents of China and Russia failed to sign a $400 billion gas supply deal at a meeting yesterday in Shanghai, prolonging negotiations that started more than 10 years ago.

Talks are continuing as the two countries seek a compromise, Alexey Miller, chief executive officer of Russian gas-exporter OAO Gazprom (OGZD), said in a statement after Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping signed bilateral agreements that didn’t include the gas deal.

Russian officials said before the meeting that the two sides were very close to a deal on gas price, opening the way to building a pipeline linking the world’s largest energy producer with the biggest consumer. That has been the stumbling block throughout the past decade, though with Putin facing sanctions from the U.S. and Europe after he annexed Crimea, an agreement had been seen as more likely than at previous summits.

“It shows that Russia is not willing to cut a low-price deal just to make a political point with the west,” said Chris Weafer, founder at Macro Advisory in Moscow. “The danger is if a deal is not concluded this year China may switch its efforts to secure pipeline gas elsewhere.”

(...EDITED)


Bloomberg (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-20/russian-chinese-leaders-silent-on-gas-deal-in-shanghai.html)


Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 21, 2014, 08:39:02
NO Gas deal????  ???


The Financial Times is reporting (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d9a8b800-e09a-11e3-9534-00144feabdc0.html#axzz32J5XZxKK) that a lastminute deal was signed. The article says that, "State-owned China National Petroleum Corp, China’s largest oil company, said on Wednesday it had signed a 30-year deal to buy up to 38bn cubic metres of gas per year, beginning in 2018 ... The company did not give details on the pricing of the gas, the sticking point in negotiations that have stretched over a decade ... The breakthrough came just hours after PetroChina, the listed subsidiary of CNPC, told the Financial Times that the deal would not be completed during Mr Putin’s visit because of the pricing dispute."

The price will be interesting. China should be willing to pay a premium for guaranteed delivery through a pipeline and Russia should be willing to accept a price a wee, tiny bit below current market rates for a guaranteed, high volume deal. The FT article concludes, "For China, with a growing diversity of natural gas sources including from newly licensed Russian exporters, securing supply of piped gas from Gazprom no longer holds the importance it did when the two companies began negotiating a decade ago."

But, always, see my comments about China's expectations. Russia has, in the recent past, in Putin's era, used oil and gas as a weapon, closing the taps to punish its neighbours. The Chinese will not accept that and, unlike the rest of the world, China would have no compunction about physically punishing Russia for any such move. Xi Jinping is nothing at all like Barack Obama or Angela Merkel and he, Xi, has waaaay more balls than Putin can even dream about ... it's all in the nature of the system through which he made his way to the top.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on May 21, 2014, 22:34:28
That seems about right ERC.

I think that if Putin did turn off the taps Xi, or his successors, would have few compunctions about seizing the wellheads - many of which are located east of the Urals.  That territory is only nominally Russian.  Culturally it is, if not anti-Russian, at least antipathetic towards Moscow.

And .... there have been some interesting goings on in Kazakhstan with rockets recently.

Russia moved a new Iskander battery on to Kazakhstan's border at the south end of the Urals.
Shortly there after missile debris landed just outside a Kazakhstani village.
Kazakhstan closed the Baikonur cosmodrome to Russia - apparently the debris came from a failed Russian ICBM test
Russia just launched another test ICBM from their Kasputin Yar test site near the Caspian in Astrakhan. 
That round splashed in a test range leased by Russia in Kazakhstan.

I find Kazakhstan's role in current events curious.  It is working very hard to stay neutral enough that it stays out of Moscow's orbit without offending Putin.  For instance, although it is a member of CIS and the Shanghai group, it has not supported Moscow on the Ukraine.  I believe the only CIS members that have are Belarus and Turkmenistan.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 22, 2014, 07:37:12
There are more details about the deal, including some gross dollar values, in an article (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/asian-pacific-business/massive-russia-china-gas-deal-to-shake-up-lng-markets/article18783872/#dashboard/follows/) in the Globe and Mail.

The report says that "Gazprom expects to sell the gas for about $350 per thousand tons, or $9.91 per thousand cubic feet. While that is far above prices in North America, where gas has lately traded for around $4.50, it’s well below the pricing for Pacific liquefied natural gas." Other reports say the gas should sell for $11.00 per thousand cubic feet in and around Beijing, maybe a bit less in and around Shanghai. The Financial Times reports that (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d9a8b800-e09a-11e3-9534-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz32J5XZxKK) "Gazprom had been forced to make concessions. People in the industry in Beijing said China was able to drive a harder bargain in the light of Gazprom’s growing international isolation."

The new pipeline is interesting:

(http://www.theglobeandmail.com/incoming/article18774454.ece/BINARY/image.jpg)
Source: The Globe and Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/asian-pacific-business/massive-russia-china-gas-deal-to-shake-up-lng-markets/article18783872/#dashboard/follows/)

But it may be that the development of the Kovykta and Chayanda gas fields, in Eastern Siberia, mayb be the biggest long term news.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on May 22, 2014, 14:58:25
A parallel update at the China superthread, is of similar importance:

China, Russia sign deal to BYPASS US Dollar (http://army.ca/forums/index.php?topic=2941.msg1310024#msg1310024)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on May 22, 2014, 17:07:34
Our response to both Russia and China

Baluchi Separatists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balochistan_conflict)
Laskars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lashkar-e-Balochistan)

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6e/Major_ethnic_groups_of_Pakistan_in_1980.jpg/620px-Major_ethnic_groups_of_Pakistan_in_1980.jpg)

Historically the Baluchis are tied to Oman.  They controlled the access to the Persian/Arabian Gulf.

A separate Baluchistan would give the Stan Confederacy TM a salt water port and put them on the world market.

That means that Afghanistan remains a critical piece for the west to maintain relations -  The Northern Alliance of Turks etc is more "pragmatic" than the Pashtun hill tribes.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Colin P on May 23, 2014, 11:19:46
I suspect the Chinese sees this as good business and an insurance policy. They will have yet another source of energy that will help limit their use of coal which will help with the air quality issue. It will lessen any western boycott ability and provide infrastructure in the Northwestern Provinces which seem to need it. I doubt they trust Russia very much and also knew they had them over a barrel. However Gazprom might be hoping this is another step towards linking to the Indian market as well.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 24, 2014, 11:49:32
Here is an interesting inforgraphic (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BoYpPW8IMAE2_xX.jpg) provided by the Russian Ministry of Economic Development showing Sino-Rissuan trade in 2013:

(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BoYpPW8IMAE2_xX.jpg)

Not the nature of the trade: almost all of Russia exports are natural resources; most, the overwhelming majority of China's exports are finished or processed goods. In other words Russia is, like Canada, a "hewer of wood and drawer of water" while China is adding value and providing added domestic employment.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on May 24, 2014, 15:47:11
If this deal benefits Russia so greatly why:

Is it decades in the making?
Did it take Europe turning off the taps to make it happen?
Was it not concluded between Gazprom and CNPC directly but required Putin to make concessions directly to Xi?

In the balance of trade, Russia is 10 BUSD per year in the red to China?

China still has access to its own coal and world markets.
Europe has given up Global Warming and reverted to King Coal.

Russia is now officially a client state of Beijing. 

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/10852419/Russias-gas-king-taunts-crumbling-Europe-over-China-pipeline-coup.html)

Quote
The China prize has given Russia a dramatic means of fighting back, though it is far from clear what the Memorandum of Understanding between the two sides actually means. Most analysts say it is highly unlikely that China would wish to become too dependent on Russian supplies after witnessing the skirmishes in Europe.
The reason why Europe's imports of LNG have fallen so low is because Japanese demand since the Fukushima nuclear disaster has pushed up the price. Germany, Spain and the UK have been turning to coal instead to produce electricity.

Russia is having to refinance its banks.  Its army is reduced to guerilla warfare in Ukraine.....

In words in common currency in my youth: It's in a worst state than China.

And with Obama still banging the drum FOR Global Warming I can't make up my mind whether the fair, fond, fool is venial, gullible or daft.

Edit to add one last point.  2018 is when the gas could potentially start to flow.  Four years from now. That is an eternity in this man's calendar:

(http://anmblog.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c565553ef01a73d7b9d4f970d-pi)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on May 24, 2014, 16:15:01
Here's a surprise... as far as I'm concerned anyway.

Lord Mandelsson and I agree (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/10850249/Lord-Mandelson-sees-looming-nightmare-for-Russian-economy-despite-gas-deal.html).  I am sure he IS pleased.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 25, 2014, 10:09:00
I was reading something else, quite unrelated to Russia, about why America needed to increase defence spending and it got me to thinking about the enemy that is required to support such an analysis. The article I was reading suggested, without coming right out and saying so, that China was the “peer” enemy against which America would be required to match itself unilaterally.

I have a problem with that analysis. First: I cannot see a strategic rationale for either America or China to wish to provoke such a war. Second: I think an accidental war, drifting into war, is very unlikely because of the “elephant vs whale” or “tiger vs shark' analogies that many analysts present. Third: history suggests, to me, anyway, that neither America nor China is overly expansionist. Both did extend their boundaries in the 19th and 20th centuries, but one might argue that China has still not succeeded in 'digesting' its gains; in fact some doubt that Tibet and Xinjiang were, really, gains at all.

But I do see a threat ... one that has solid historical roots: a Russo-German axis or a Mitteleuropean power.

Imagine this, please: It is 35 years from now, around 2050, in the past decades Eurasia has seen some upheavals. The first was that Russian Far Eastern region, basically Region 4 on this map ...

(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Economic_regions_of_Russia.png)

... including Amur, Chukotka, Eastern Siberia (Sahka), Kamchatka, Khabarovsk, Magadan, Primosky and Sakhalin, separate from Russia. They are not absorbed by China but, rather, they become (an) independent state(s), UN members, in fact, rather like Mongolia. This would not have been a pretty process ... China would have been a provocateur but the main problem would have been Russians simply abandoning the Far East and returning to Europe, and Asians, some Chinese, some Mongolians, but, mainly,indigenous people taking over the management and finding that North <-> South links, with China, are much more natural (and profitable) than East <-> West links with Russia.

Being 'reduced' to a more modest (but still) Eurasian power will have caused the Russians to look West.

In Europe two major things will have happened by, say, 2040:

     1. NATO will have disbanded itself, being replaced by a separate series of bilateral and some multilateral arrangement involving America, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland,
         Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – almost a Nordic Alliance; and

     2. The EU will have been reorganized into a tiered organization with varying levels of engagement – so 'loose' that even Norway and Switzerland will have joined the 'bottom' tier, along with
         Britain and Denmark and few others.

France will have tried, but failed, to organize first a EU military alliance and,,later, a Central European and then Southern European alliance. None will have lasted more than a few years.

Germany, having finally thrown off its collective, national guilt over World War II, will assert its leadership role and the notion of MittelEuropa will be front and centre, again.

(http://www.weltnetzladen.com/images/sprachenkartevonmitteleurop.gif)

Russia will have no place to go: the East and South are less and less friendly – Muslim Stans and Chinese client predominate. They will make common cause with the Germans, creating a new League of Europe stretching from Atlantic (France and Portugal) to the Yenisey which divides Central from (the now independent) Eastern Siberia.

(http://www.geotutorials.ro/europa-atlas/harta-politica-europa.jpg)

The Nordics and the Brits want to stay aloof, but it's very, very hard and through the still existent EU they have free trade and strong economic links with it ... this new leviathan is rich and powerful. China is modestly friendly towards the new League because it has no further border issues, it shares some important trade ties and there is a 'common enemy' in the shape of Militant Islam in Central and West Asia and the Middle East.

Japan has slipped, further and further into the Chinese sphere of influence and trade and cultural ties grow stronger and stronger. There is a South-East Asian union of sorts – India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka having joined ASEAN. But the Asians, even including India, want friendly relations with China and do not feel overly threatened by it.

America is isolated – along with Australia and Canada. There is a bit of an Anglosphere, America, Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have a formal military alliance – with which Denmark the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden all cooperate to varying degrees, but it has political divisions, the Brits and Nordics have strong ties to Europe and Australia and New Zealand have equally strong economic ties to China.

Where is there a potential flashpoint? Africa.

Why? Resources

It is, in fact, a three way competition, between the American led Anglosphere, the Chinese and other Asians, and the new German led League of Europe.

If the Europeans have made a decision to become a global military power then, with access to African oil and minerals, it has the potential to be a real “peer” of the Americans – able to fight as both an elephant and a whale.

 :2c:   Just thinking out loud ...
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 25, 2014, 10:45:30
A German Russia axis isn't realistic as the Russians still remember WW2 vividly.What is more likely is a resumption of the Russian-Sino partnership.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 25, 2014, 11:09:00
A German Russia axis isn't realistic as the Russians still remember WW2 vividly.What is more likely is a resumption of the Russian-Sino partnership.


Disagree ... First: there never was a Sino-Russian partnership, initially, in the 1930s, the CCP was a client of the Comintern but, by the 1960s, the traditional animosity which both countries have felt towards the other for 800 years had firmly reasserted itself; it, the animosity, remains strong today, in my own experience. Second: I think Putin's Russia fears China because my Far Eastern scenario is all too plausible (http://rightweb.irc-online.org/articles/display/whose_siberia); it does not fear Europe, Russia may remember Nazi Germany, now, but I am not convinced that can last another generation. Third: Russia is failing by almost every social, political, demographic and economic measure. It is, also, hemmed in: by Islam in the South, by China in the East and by Europe in the West - of the three Europe is the least unpleasant.

 
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: tomahawk6 on May 25, 2014, 11:30:51
I would hope at some point that Putin realizes that he has more in common with the west than standing alone or joining with China to carve out a new hegamon.Forbes take on a Russia-Sino alliance.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2014/05/20/a-russia-china-alliance-is-emerging-and-it-will-be-a-disaster-for-the-west/
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on May 25, 2014, 12:59:43
I'm going to throw in a nickle's worth and highlight two points.

I don't think we can call what Russia and China are arranging an alliance.  Usually an alliance is based on equality.  I agree with ERC on China and don't think that China perceives Russia as an equal - not culturally, politically, militarily or economically.  I think China perceives Russia exactly the same way they perceive any of their other resource suppliers: a vendor and an inferior one at that.

The other point that I would make is about Islam.  I think we are starting to drift back into the mistake we were making in the early days of Iraq and assuming all muslims are Twelvers or Wahhabis.

Beyond the big divisions between Sunnis (the original Arab strain) and the Shia (the Persian strain) there is another grand tradition in Islam and that is Sufism.  Sufism is a variant of Sunni Islam but is differently focused and is particularly popular amongst the Turkic peoples of the Stans.  It is decried by both the Wahhabis and the Twelvers as anathema because it is influenced by Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and the even more ancient Tengrism - the shamanism of the Mongols and the Gokturks.

Those that were there will know better than I but I was under the impression that a good part of the problem in Afghanistan was the antipathy between the Turkic dominated Northern Alliance and the Pashtun hill tribes with their Arab influenced Taliban.  Karzai was supposed to be a Pashtun that could work with the Turks.

Here's an article (http://ww4report.com/node/2005) on Sufism in the Stans:

Quote
Chechen Sufi revival —between Russian occupation and Wahhabis
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 05/24/2006 - 21:57 Caucasus Theater

How interesting. In an implicit acknowledgement that their hardcore Islamophobe policies are backfiring in Chechya, the Russian authorities are embracing the indigenous peace-loving Sufi tradition as an alternative to the violently intransigent Wahhabism imported from the Arab world. But this could also backfire—as the Sufis themselves also seek independence from Russia, even if they aren't willing to blow up civilians to acheive it. The implications are "unclear" indeed. And while it is good to see the Kunta-Haji Sufis on page 4 of the New York Times, we're not sure they would appreciate the writer's depiction of their chanting as "grunts."

A Whirling Sufi Revival With Unclear Implications

GROZNY, Russia — Three circles of barefoot men, one ring inside another, sway to the cadence of chant.

The men stamp in time as they sway, and grunt from the abdomen and throat, filling the room with a primal sound. One voice rises over the rest, singing variants of the names of God.

The men stop, face right and walk counterclockwise, slowly at first, then fast. As they gain speed they begin to hop on their outside feet and draw closer. The three circles merge into a spinning ball.

The ball stops. It opens back up. The stamping resumes, softly at first, then louder. Many of the men are entranced. The air around them hums. The wooden floor shakes. The men turn left and accelerate the other way.

This is a zikr, the mystical Sufi dance of the Caucasus and a ritual near the center of Chechen Islam.

Here inside Chechnya, where Russia has spent six years trying to contain the second Chechen war since the Soviet Union collapsed, traditional forms of religious expression are returning to public life. It is a revival laden with meaning, and with implications that are unclear.

The Kremlin has worried for generations about Islam's influence in the Caucasus, long attacking local Sufi traditions and, in the 1990's, attacking the role of small numbers of foreign Wahhabis, proponents of an austere Arabian interpretation of Islam whom Moscow often accuses of encouraging terrorist attacks.

But Chechnya's Sufi brotherhoods have never been vanquished — not by repression, bans or exile by the czars or Stalin, and not by the Kremlin of late.

Now they are reclaiming a place in public life. What makes the resurgence so unusual is that Sufi practices have become an element of policy for pro-Russian Chechens. Zikr ceremonies are embraced by the kadyrovsky, the Kremlin-backed Chechen force that is assuming much of the administration of this shattered land.

Post-Soviet Russia tried to make zikr celebrations a symbol of Chechen aggression, portraying zikr as the dance and trance of the rebels, the ritual of the untamed. Now zikr is performed by the men the Kremlin is counting on to keep Chechnya in check.

The occasion for ceremony on this day was the blessing of the foundation of a mosque that will be named for Akhmad Kadyrov, the Russian-backed Chechen president who was assassinated in 2004.

The mosque, whose foundation rests on the grounds of the former headquarters of the Communist Party's regional committee, is meant to replace older associations. Not only is it an implicit rebuke of Communism, it is situated beside the ruins of another, much smaller mosque that was being constructed by the separatists in the 1990's.

Its scale and grandeur are intended as public statement. At a cost of $20 million, it will be a sprawling complex, with room for a religious school and a residence for the mufti, said Amradin Adilgeriyev, an adviser to Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's pro-Kremlin premier and son of the slain president.

The mosque will hold 10,000 worshipers, making it the largest in the republic. Its minarets will rise 179 feet in the air. It will speak not just of faith, but of power.

And so on this day the men dance. And dance. Tassels on their skullcaps bounce and swing. Sweat darkens their shirts. They are perhaps 90 in men in all, mostly young. They look strong. But zikr is demanding. As some of them tire, they step aside. Others take their place.

Their stamping can be heard two blocks away.

The entrance to the construction site is controlled by gunmen who make sure that none of the separatists enters with a bomb. Other young men boil brick-sized chunks of beef in caldrons of garlic broth, stirring the meat with a wooden slab.

Zikr has several forms. This form traces its origins to Kunta-Haji Kishiyev, a shepherd who traveled the Middle East in the 19th century, then returned to Chechnya and found converts to Sufism. Initially his followers pledged peace, but in time many joined the resistance to Russia, and their leader was exiled. They fought on, becoming a reservoir of Chechen traditionalism and rebellious spirit.

In 1991, when Chechnya declared independence from Russia, the Kunta-Haji brotherhoods, long underground, fought again. Sebastian Smith, who covered the Chechen wars and wrote "Allah's Mountains: Politics and War in the Russian Caucasus," noted that they became a source of rebel resolve.

At one zikr ceremony he observed, the men were dancing, he wrote, until a Russian bomber screamed low overhead, buzzing the village. Mr. Smith watched their reaction. "No one even looks up," he wrote. "The whooping grows louder."

The Sufis resisted the influx of Wahhabis who came to fight Russia beside them, but whose version of Islam aligned more closely with that of the Afghan Taliban.

Mr. Kadyrov said in an interview that he hoped to help restore Chechen Sufi traditions as part of an effort to preserve Chechen culture. He has reopened the roads to Ertan, a village in the mountains, where Kunta-Haji Kishiyev's mother is buried. Her grave is a shrine and a place for pilgrimages, which for years were not made. This spring the roads to Ertan are crowded with walkers, who visit the grave to circle it and pray.

Still, efforts to incorporate Sufi brotherhoods into a government closely identified with the Kremlin contain contradictions. Some see manipulation on Mr. Kadyrov's part, noting that Chechen self-identity has never been suppressed, even by some of the most repressive forces the world has ever known.

Whether Mr. Kadyrov can control the forces he taps into is unknown. The zikrists dance on this day with state approval. But for whom?

"Kadyrov wants to show that he is a supporter of Chechen traditional Islam," said Aslan Doukaev, a native of Chechnya who is director of the North Caucasus service of Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty. "But Sufis always wanted Chechen independence, and that signal is being sent here too."

We hope history is not about to repeat itself. "The Religious Roots of Conflict: Russia and Chechnya" by David Damrel (originally published in Religious Studies News, September 1995, now online at the Belfast Islamic Center) outlines the long historical cycle of tolerance and repression the Sufis have faced in the Caucasus:

The history of Russian expansion into Caucasia - the remote, rugged, mountainous territory between the Black and Caspian Seas that is home to over 30 different ethnic groups--began in the late eighteenth century with Catherine the Great’s attempts to forcibly annex the region. But the Russian invaders inspired fierce, unexpected resistance from a broad ethnic coalition of Caucasian Muslims who had united in loyalty to one spiritual leader - a Chechen Muslim mystic warrior named Shaykh Mansur Ushurma. Declaring the struggle a jihad, Shaykh Mansur and his Muslim mountaineers inflicted a crushing defeat on Czarist forces at the Sunzha River in 1785 and were briefly able to unite much of what is modern Daghestan and Chechnya under their rule.

Shaykh Mansur headed a branch of the Naqshbandi Sufi order, an Islamic mystical brotherhood that originated in fourteenth century Central Asia. Islamic mysticism - known as Sufism - spread quickly among both Muslims and non-Muslims in the Caucasus and Central Asia, largely through the missionary activities of itinerant Sufi scholars and mystics. These popular shaykhs (saints, literally "friends of God") often acquired reputations as miracle workers, and their tombs frequently became shrines (mazars) and pilgrimage sites. As recently as the late 1970s, Soviet authorities testified to the abiding attraction of these shrines, listing more than 70 active mazars in Daghestan and over 30 more in Chechnya. More traditional Muslim religious leaders often attacked the Sufi "cult of saints" for un-Islamic practices, but from early on in the Caucasus, Sufism helped attract converts to Islam at a popular level and offered a powerful source of spiritual guidance and social identity.

These Sufi shaykhs usually directed a tight, clannish organization of disciples (murids) bound to them with oaths of absolute obedience. Senior disciples were allowed to initiate new devotees into the brotherhood, and these deputies were often dispatched to spread the order in villages deep in the mountains. Frequently, charismatic and ambitious murids formed their own branches and subbranches within an order. Certain Sufi orders and suborders became closely associated with specific ethnic groups and with particular notable families.

Zikr (remembrance [of God]) is the central ritual practice of most Caucasian Sufi orders. This mystical ceremony, designed to lead participants into an ecstatic union with God, involves the group repetition of a special prayer or various divine names of God. The Naqshbandis favor a silent form of zikr that is closed to outsiders, but other orders sometimes permit vocal and public zikr assemblies.

Reliable membership figures are impossible to establish, but a 1975 Soviet survey in Chechnya claimed that half of the Muslim population there belonged to local Sufi orders--a stunning total of over 300,000 murids. The Naqshbandis, joined later by the Qadiri Sufi brotherhood, have dominated north Caucasian Muslim spiritual life from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Naturally secretive and disciplined, with broad-based social support and foreboding mountainous terrain for cover, these orders have proven formidable adversaries for whoever has tried to rule the Caucasus.

Shaykh Mansur’s disciples continued their low-key resistance against the Russians even after his death in prison in 1793. Full-scale armed revolt against the Russian occupation of Daghestan and Chechnya resumed in 1824, when a series of Naqshbandi Sufi leaders called Imams began a bitter guerrilla war that would last for over 30 more years. The most famous of these Sufi warriors, the Naqshbandi Shaykh Imam Shamil, actually established a short-lived Islamic state in Chechnya and Daghestan before his capitulation in 1859. With Shamil safely imprisoned, the Russians moved to crush the remaining "Muridists" and pacify the region. Many of Shamil’s

The Qadiri order, with its origins in twelfth-century Baghdad, first appeared in the Caucasus in 1861 headed by a Daghestani shepherd named Kunta Haji Kishiev. Based in Chechnya, Kunta Haji taught a mystical practice that, unlike the Naqshbandis, allowed vocal zikr, ecstatic music and dancing. And, at first, he counseled peace with the Russians. His popularity surged but soon his following, swelled by many murid fighters from Shamil’s former army, so alarmed the Russians that he was arrested and exiled in 1864. That same year at Shali in Chechnya, Russian troops fired on over 4,000 Qadiri murids, killing scores and igniting a fresh wave of violence. The brotherhood--whose remaining leaders all claimed spiritual descent from Kunta Haji--became implacable Russian foes and struck deep roots in the Chechen countryside. Together with the rejuvenated Naqshbandis, the Qadiris rose up against the Romanovs in 1865, 1877, 1879 and the 1890s and plagued Czarist rule in the Caucasus through the Bolshevik Revolution.

The revolutionary years were especially bloody in Daghestan and Chechnya. The Qadiris, and a Naqshbandi movement led by Shaykh Uzun Haji battled for eight years against the White and the Red armies to create a "North Caucasian Emirate." The pious, uncompromising Uzun Haji - whose tomb remains a major pilgrimage site for Chechen Muslims - saw little difference between the Czarist Russians and the atheist communists. "I am weaving a rope," he was quoted by his enemies, "to hang engineers, students and in general all those who write from left to right."

His uprising in Daghestan was suppressed in 1925, but the Soviets, branding the Sufis "bandits," "criminals" and "counter-revolutionaries," continued to arrest, execute and deport the "zikrists" almost up to the outbreak of WWII. The brotherhoods braved the crackdown as they always had: the shaykhs disappeared deep into the mountains, the murids organized their zikr assemblies in private homes, and the orders ensured their secrecy through the double bond of spiritual initiation and tight-knit clan loyalty.

During WWII, when disturbances occurred in Chechnya in 1940 and again in 1943, Stalin responded with astonishing brutality that bordered on genocide. Accusing them of still unproven collaboration with Nazi Germany, in 1944 he forcibly relocated six entire Caucasian nationalities, including the whole Chechen and Ingush populations, to special camps in Central Asia. All told, more than a million Muslims from the Caucasus were deported, with tremendous loss of life. By some estimates one third to one-half of the population of Chechen-Ingushetia alone - well over 250,000 people - disappeared after the republic was liquidated in February 1944.

The Chechens and other groups spent more than a decade in isolated work camps in Kazakhstan. But by all accounts, the forced resettlement failed to break either the Sufi brotherhoods or Chechen national spirit. Describing the fearsome "psychology of submission" that prevailed in Soviet relocation camps, Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn observed that only one people refused to be broken by the ordeal: "the nation as a whole - the Chechens." And in later sociological surveys Soviet academics euphemistically noted that "the special postwar conditions" had actually strengthened religious beliefs within the exiled Caucasian peoples.

In 1957, when the Chechens and other exiled Caucasian groups were proclaimed "rehabilitated" and returned to their republics, they found that their land had been "Russified." Hundreds of thousands of Russian farmers brought in to work the land during their absence had become permanent residents and now comprised a quarter of the region’s population.

The Chechens, Ingush and Daghestanis also discovered a land scoured of Islam. Soviet authorities had experimented with the near total suppression of Islam in the region, closing over 800 mosques and 400 religious colleges. Mazars were demolished, converted into state museums, or made inaccessible. Only after more than 30 years, in 1978, Soviet authorities in the Caucasus allowed under 40 mosques to reopen and staffed them with less than 300 registered ulema.

We have also noted that Sufis face harsh persecution in Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.

Here are links to a few Zikrs


http://vimeo.com/65859098
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih395-JcvQo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5goISKPSH8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtPu-EAJf6s

Tengrism is also being promoted by the governments of the Stans - as in Tengri News of Kazakhstan

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Infanteer on May 25, 2014, 16:04:37
It is, in fact, a three way competition, between the American led Anglosphere, the Chinese and other Asians, and the new German led League of Europe.

If the Europeans have made a decision to become a global military power then, with access to African oil and minerals, it has the potential to be a real “peer” of the Americans – able to fight as both an elephant and a whale.

 :2c:   Just thinking out loud ...

Where does South America sit in your (interesting) estimate of long-term geopolitical trends?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 25, 2014, 16:57:35
Where does South America sit in your (interesting) estimate of long-term geopolitical trends?


I honestly don't know ... it is resource rich and China is already moving in down there. The politics are always weak, ripe, it seems to me, for corruption and, therefore, for external influence. It has been, for generations, America's preserve; the Europeans have or, at least, have had had important interests; but the Chinese are making inroads, too.

I suppose it could be another point of contention.

I also wonder about Indonesia and Philippines ...
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 27, 2014, 16:44:20

The Financial Times is reporting (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d9a8b800-e09a-11e3-9534-00144feabdc0.html#axzz32J5XZxKK) that a lastminute deal was signed. The article says that, "State-owned China National Petroleum Corp, China’s largest oil company, said on Wednesday it had signed a 30-year deal to buy up to 38bn cubic metres of gas per year, beginning in 2018 ... The company did not give details on the pricing of the gas, the sticking point in negotiations that have stretched over a decade ... The breakthrough came just hours after PetroChina, the listed subsidiary of CNPC, told the Financial Times that the deal would not be completed during Mr Putin’s visit because of the pricing dispute."

The price will be interesting. China should be willing to pay a premium for guaranteed delivery through a pipeline and Russia should be willing to accept a price a wee, tiny bit below current market rates for a guaranteed, high volume deal. The FT article concludes, "For China, with a growing diversity of natural gas sources including from newly licensed Russian exporters, securing supply of piped gas from Gazprom no longer holds the importance it did when the two companies began negotiating a decade ago."

But, always, see my comments about China's expectations. Russia has, in the recent past, in Putin's era, used oil and gas as a weapon, closing the taps to punish its neighbours. The Chinese will not accept that and, unlike the rest of the world, China would have no compunction about physically punishing Russia for any such move. Xi Jinping is nothing at all like Barack Obama or Angela Merkel and he, Xi, has waaaay more balls than Putin can even dream about ... it's all in the nature of the system through which he made his way to the top.


Another inforgraphic showing that China would need the equivalent of 16, that's 16! of those Russian gas deals to meet its energy demands.

(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BoqoN4bIEAAjstr.jpg)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on May 27, 2014, 18:28:03
Germany, having finally thrown off its collective, national guilt over World War II, will assert its leadership role and the notion of MittelEuropa will be front and centre, again.

Sorry to be a little off-topic,

But I certainly hope that the notion of MittelEuropa does not evolve into a "Fourth Reich" that seeks to displace other nations and ethnic groups while seeking "Lebensraum" ("Living Space")...

Agence-France-Presse (http://www.afp.com/en/node/2436008)

Quote
GAME CHANGER? European Parliament set to usher in first neo-Nazis

BRUSSELS - Though no stranger to controversy or diatribe, the European Parliament is set to usher in its first fully-fledged neo-Nazis members, from Germany and Greece.

With around 300,000 votes at Sunday's European elections the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) is expected to claim one of the country's 96 seats in the new Parliament, in a historical ground-breaker.

A recent change in German electoral laws, scrapping all minimum thresholds, paved the way for the march into parliament of the NPD, which has 6,000 members.

It describes itself as "national socialist," just like Germany's Nazis in the 1930s, and is openly xenophobic and anti-semitic so a group of German regional governments have tried to have it banned for propagating racism.

Meanwhile, with almost all ballots counted in Greece, the neo-Nazi "Golden Dawn" party is claiming over nine percent of the vote, which would net it three seats in the 751-member Parliament.

Golden Dawn was founded in the 1980s by Nikos Michaloliakos, an open admirer of Adolf Hitler. In 2012, Michaloliakos publicly denied the responsibility of Nazis in the mass-murder of six million Jews.


(...EDITED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on May 27, 2014, 18:33:36
The anti-EU forces (both left and right wing), I believe, are not expansionist.  They are very much focused on local control.

The expansionists are the traditional socialists/internationalists running the bureaucracy in Brussels.  Which, in fact, brings them head to head with the Russians.

Nationalism could actually reduce the pressure on Russia's border.  If only the Russian's weren't so keen on maintaining borders that no longer exist.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on June 03, 2014, 15:03:13
From the American Interest: Russia revitalizes their longstanding propaganda machine for the 21rst century. And they were very, VERY good at it back in the day. Simply look at Boshevik and early Russian posters, or watch the movies of Sergi Esinstein (who not only was a contemporary of Leni Riefenstahl, but an equally skilled director), or study the way the Russians spread the gosple of Communism around the world through various means. We will need to be at the top of our game since they are leverageing their strong suit against us:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/blog/2014/06/02/the-great-success-of-the-russian-propaganda-machine/

Quote
The Great Success of the Russian Propaganda Machine

Propaganda has always been an important tool of war—and its importance grew during the 20th century as Stalin and Goebbels took the dark art to new heights of sophistication and power. As Putin seeks to rebuild Russian power on the rubble of the Soviet Union, he is reaching out for the USSR’s most effective propaganda and espionage weapons.
 
Here’s the opening from a Spiegel article well worth your time:
 

Ivan Rodionov sits in his office at Berlin’s Postdamer Platz and seems to relish his role as the bad guy. He rails in almost accent-free German, with a quiet, but sharp voice, on the German media, which, he claims, have been walking in “lockstep” when it comes to their coverage of the Ukraine crisis. During recent appearances on two major German talk shows, Rodionov disputed allegations that Russian soldiers had infiltrated Crimea prior to the controversial referendum and its annexation by Russia. He says it’s the “radical right-wing views” of the Kiev government, and not Russia, that poses the threat. “Western politicians,” he says, “are either helping directly or are at least looking on.”
 
Rodionov defends President Vladimir Putin so vehemently that one could be forgiven for confusing him with a Kremlin spokesperson. But Rodionov views himself as a journalist. The 49-year-old is the head of the video news agency Ruptly, founded one year ago and financed by the Russian government. The eighth floor of the office building has a grand view of Germany’s house of parliament, the Reichstag. It’s a posh location and the Kremlin doesn’t seem to mind spending quite a bit of money to disseminate its view of the world from here. Around 110 people from Spain, Britain, Russia and Poland work day and night in the three-floor office space on videos that are then syndicated to the international media.
 
At first glance, it’s not obvious that Ruptly is actually Kremlin TV. In addition to Putin speeches, there are also numerous other video clips available in its archive, ranging from ***** Riot to arrests of members of the Russian opposition. When it comes to eastern Ukraine, however, the agency offers almost exclusively videos that are favorable towards pro-Russian supporters of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk,” which was founded by separatists. You’ll also find right-wing radicals like Britain’s Nick Griffin or German far-right extremist Olaf Rose, an ideologist with the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), stirring up hatred towards the European Union and its Ukraine policies.
 
(Note the opportunistic use of far-right European political figures to further Russian talking points. This is a trend worth watching.)
 
The West needs to up its game. Cracking down on Russian espionage, both commercial and strategic, tracing and publicizing the flow of money and influence in the Kremlin’s propaganda enterprise, and countering Russian disinformation and attempts to shape world opinion must now become part of Western policy.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on June 03, 2014, 15:11:35
Don't kid yourself.  The propaganda machine works for us as well:

"I am the Ukrainian (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hvds2AIiWLA)" was a pretty slick little number.  And people bought it.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on June 05, 2014, 15:42:25
Foreign Policy. (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/06/04/what_russia_could_look_like_in_2035_if_putin_gets_his_wish_ukraine_irredentism)

Some interesting maps - circa 2035

(http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_images/140604_1crop.jpg)

(http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_images/140604_2035%202crop.jpg)

(http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_images/140604_2035%20eastcrop.jpg)

Europe dismembered. Russia united.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 25, 2014, 10:04:42
Part 1 of 2

Alexander Lukin (http://www.chinafile.com/contributors/Alexander-Lukin), a Russian insider offers an interesting analysis and prescription, with which i fundamentally disagree, for the current contretemps in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Foreign Affairs:

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141538/alexander-lukin/what-the-kremlin-is-thinking
Quote
(http://www.foreignaffairs.com/files/sitetheme_logo.gif)
What the Kremlin Is Thinking
Putin’s Vision for Eurasia

By Alexander Lukin

FROM OUR JULY/AUGUST 2014 ISSUE

Soon after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Western leaders began to think of Russia as a partner. Although Washington and its friends in Europe never considered Moscow a true ally, they assumed that Russia shared their basic domestic and foreign policy goals and would gradually come to embrace Western-style democracy at home and liberal norms abroad. That road would be bumpy, of course. But Washington and Brussels attributed Moscow’s distinctive politics to Russia’s national peculiarities and lack of experience with democracy. And they blamed the disagreements that arose over the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Iran on the short time Russia had spent under Western influence. This line of reasoning characterized what could be termed the West’s post-Soviet consensus view of Russia.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has finally put an end to this fantasy. In annexing Crimea, Moscow decisively rejected the West’s rules and in the process shattered many flawed Western assumptions about its motivations. Now U.S. and European officials need a new paradigm for how to think about Russian foreign policy -- and if they want to resolve the Ukraine crisis and prevent similar ones from occurring in the future, they need to get better at putting themselves in Moscow’s shoes.

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

From Russia’s perspective, the seeds of the Ukraine crisis were planted in the Cold War’s immediate aftermath. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the West essentially had two options: either make a serious attempt to assimilate Russia into the Western system or wrest away piece after piece of its former sphere of influence. Advocates of the first approach, including the U.S. diplomat George Kennan and Russian liberals, warned that an anti-Russian course would only provoke hostility from Moscow while accomplishing little, winning over a few small states that would end up siding with the West anyway.

But such admonitions went unheeded, and U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush chose the second path. Forgetting the promises made by Western leaders to Mikhail Gorbachev after the unification of Germany -- most notably that they would not expand NATO eastward -- the United States and its allies set out to achieve what Soviet resistance had prevented during the Cold War. They trumpeted NATO’s expansion, adding 12 new members, including former parts of the Soviet Union, while trying to convince Russia that the foreign forces newly stationed near its borders, in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, would not threaten its security. The EU, meanwhile, expanded as well, adding 16 new members of its own during the same period.

Russian leaders were caught off-guard; they had expected that both sides would increase cooperation, remain responsive to each other’s interests, and make mutually acceptable compromises. The Russians felt that they had done their part: although never entirely abandoning the idea of national interests, Russia had shown that it was willing to make sacrifices in order to join the prevailing Western-led order. Yet despite an abundance of encouraging words, the West never reciprocated. Instead, Western leaders maintained the zero-sum mindset left over from the Cold War, which they thought they’d won.

It remains hard to say whether a different approach to the post-Soviet states would have produced a better result for the West. What is obvious is that the course Clinton and Bush took empowered those Russians who wanted Moscow to reject the Western system and instead become an independent, competing center of power in the new multipolar world.

Today, the West’s continued advance is tearing apart the countries on Russia’s borders. It has already led to territorial splits in Moldova and Georgia, and Ukraine is now splintering before our very eyes. Divisive cultural boundaries cut through the hearts of these countries, such that their leaders can maintain unity only by accommodating the interests of both those citizens attracted to Europe and those wanting to maintain their traditional ties to Russia. The West’s lopsided support for pro-Western nationalists in the former Soviet republics has encouraged these states to oppress their Russian-speaking populations -- a problem to which Russia could not remain indifferent. Even now, more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, more than six percent of the population in Estonia and more than 12 percent of the population in Latvia, most of them ethnic Russians, do not have the full rights and privileges of citizenship. They cannot vote in national elections, enroll in Russian schools, or, for the most part, access Russian media. The EU, despite its emphasis on human rights outside its borders, has turned a blind eye to this clear violation of basic rights within them. So when it came to Ukraine and the threat of NATO forces appearing in Crimea -- a region for which Russia has special feelings and where most residents consider themselves Russian -- Moscow decided that there was nowhere left for such minorities to retreat. Russia annexed Crimea in response to the aspirations of a majority of its residents and to NATO’s obvious attempt to push Russia’s navy out of the Black Sea.

Western leaders were taken aback by Moscow’s swift reaction. In late March, General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, said with surprise that Russia was acting “much more like an adversary than a partner.” But given that NATO has acted that way since its founding -- and never changed its approach after the Cold War -- Moscow’s actions should have been expected. It was only a matter of time before Russia finally reacted to Western encirclement.

In this context, the government of Vladimir Putin has interpreted Western protests about the situation in Ukraine as nothing more than a case of extreme hypocrisy. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how the Kremlin could think otherwise. Consider the EU’s recent criticism of right-wing groups in Ukraine. In March, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, condemned Right Sector, a militant nationalist group, for attempting to seize the parliament building in Kiev. But the EU had effectively supported Right Sector when it took to the streets to depose the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych only months earlier. None of this is surprising, of course; Western leaders have never had any difficulty justifying the actions of such extremist groups when convenient, as when it assisted Croatians fighting in the self-proclaimed republic of Serbian Krajina in 1995 or nationalists in Kosovo in 1997–98.

Western hypocrisy doesn’t end there. Washington has regularly chastised Russia for violating the sanctity of Ukraine’s borders. Yet the United States and its allies have no leg to stand on when it comes to the principle of territorial integrity. After all, it was not Russia but the West that, in 2010, supported the ruling by the International Court of Justice that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 did not violate international law. And Moscow repeatedly warned that the precedents set by Western military interventions in such places as Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq, and Libya would undermine the existing system of international law -- including the principle of sovereignty as enshrined in the 1975 Helsinki Accords, in which the West formally acknowledged the national boundaries of the Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, and the Warsaw Pact states.

In spite of such Western double standards, Moscow has offered up a number of proposals for resolving the Ukraine crisis: the creation of a coalition government that takes into account the interests of the eastern and southern regions, the federalization of the country, the granting of official status to the Russian language, and so on. But Western ideologues seem unlikely to ever accept such proposals. Working with Russia, instead of against it, would mean admitting that someone outside the West is capable of determining what is good and what is bad for other societies.

End of Part 1

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on June 25, 2014, 10:05:33
Part 2 of 2

Quote
COLLISION COURSE

Given the growing distance between Russia and the United States and Europe, it was only a matter of time before their two approaches collided in Ukraine, a border state that has long vacillated between the pull of the East and that of the West. The struggle initially played out between opposing Ukrainian political factions: one that advocated signing an association agreement with the EU and another that favored joining the customs union formed by Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia.

Western leaders have consistently viewed such Russian-led efforts at regional integration as hostile moves aimed at resurrecting the Soviet Union and creating an alternative to the Western system. Most officials in the United States and Europe thought that bringing Ukraine into alignment with the EU would deliver a heavy blow to those plans, which explains why they interpreted Yanukovych’s decision to temporarily postpone the signing of the EU agreement as a Russian victory that called for a counterattack.

Yet Western leaders are woefully misinformed about the idea of Eurasian integration. Neither Russia nor any of the states seeking to join a Eurasian system wants to restore the Soviet Union or openly confront the West. They do, however, believe that in a multipolar world, free nations have a right to create independent associations among themselves. In fact, the ruling elites of many former Soviet republics have long favored the idea of maintaining or re-creating some form of association among their states. In 1991, for example, they created the Commonwealth of Independent States. And of the 15 former Soviet republics, only a few of them, primarily the Baltic states, have used the collapse of the Soviet Union as an opportunity to permanently abandon all ties to the former union and join Western economic and political unions instead. The remaining countries struggled to arrive at a consensus on precisely what role the CIS should play.

In some former Soviet republics, leaders have actively sought to create new forms of integration, such as the Eurasian Economic Community, whose members include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan (Uzbekistan suspended its membership in 2008). In others, such as Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine, the ruling elites considered the commonwealth the primary means for obtaining a civilized divorce from Russia and dividing up the ownership rights and authorities that were previously held by a single, unified state. In most of these countries, at least part of the official establishment and a significant segment of the general population wanted to maintain close relations with Russia and the other former Soviet states. In Georgia and Moldova, for instance, various ethnic minorities feared increasingly assertive nationalist majorities and hoped that Russia would help protect their rights. In other states, including Belarus and Ukraine, significant parts of the populations had such close economic, cultural, and even familial bonds with Russia that they could not imagine a sharp break.

Yet economic problems have long stood in the way of real integration. Although Putin came to power convinced that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the twentieth century, he waited a decade -- until Russia had gained sufficient economic and political strength -- to do anything about it. It wasn’t until 2010 that Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia launched a customs union, the first real step toward meaningful economic cooperation among post-Soviet states. The union created a territory free from duties and other economic restrictions, and its members now apply common tariffs and other common regulatory measures in their trade with outside countries. Negotiations are currently under way to add Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan to the union.

In addition to providing economic benefits, Eurasian integration has fostered security cooperation. Like NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization -- which includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan -- requires signatories to help assist any member that comes under attack. Many Eurasian countries put a special value on the CSTO; their leaders know that despite assurances from many other countries and organizations, in the event of a real threat from religious extremists or terrorists, only Russia and its allies will come to the rescue.

UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE

With economic cooperation a success, political elites in the countries of the customs union are now discussing the formation of a Eurasian political union. As Putin wrote in the Russian newspaper Izvestiya in 2011, Moscow wants the new union to partner with, not rival, the EU and other regional organizations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the North American Free Trade Agreement. That would help the member states “establish [themselves] within the global economy,” Putin wrote, and “play a real role in decision-making, setting the rules and shaping the future.” For such a union to be effective, however, it will need to evolve naturally and voluntarily. Moreover, taking post-Soviet integration to a new level raises the question of what deeper values would lie at its foundation. If the countries of Europe united to champion the values of democracy, human rights, and economic cooperation, then a Eurasian union must stand for its own ideals, too.

Some political thinkers have found the ideological foundation for such a union by looking to history. The concept of a Eurasian space or identity first arose among Russian philosophers and historians who immigrated from communist Russia to western Europe in the 1920s. Like Russian Slavophiles before them, advocates of Eurasianism spoke of the special nature of Russian civilization and its differences from European society. But they gazed in a different direction: whereas earlier Slavophiles emphasized Slavic unity and contrasted European individualism with the collectivism of Russian peasant communities, the Eurasianists linked the Russian people to the Turkic-speaking peoples -- or “Turanians” -- of the Central Asian steppe. According to the Eurasianists, the Turanian civilization, which supposedly originated in ancient Persia, followed its own unique political and economic model -- essentially, authoritarianism. Although they valued private initiative in general, many of the Eurasianists condemned the excessive dominance of market principles over the state in the West and emphasized the positive role of their region’s traditional religions: Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. However dubious the Eurasianists’ historical claims about the Turanians may be, this theory now enjoys wide popularity not only among a significant part of the Russian political elite but also in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other Central Asian states where the Turanians’ descendants live.

Although the old ideas advanced by today’s Eurasianists may seem somewhat artificial, the plan to establish a Eurasian union should not be considered so far-fetched. The culture and values of many former Soviet republics really do differ from what prevails in the West. Liberal secularism, with its rejection of the absolute values that traditional religions hold as divinely ordained, may be on the rise in western Europe and the United States, but in these former Soviet republics, all the major religions -- Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism -- are experiencing a revival. Despite the significant differences between them, all these religions reject Western permissiveness and moral relativism, and not for some pragmatic reason but because they find such notions sinful -- either unsanctioned or expressly prohibited by divine authority.

Most inhabitants of these post-Soviet states also resent that people in the West consider their outlook backward and reactionary. Their religious leaders, who are enjoying increasing popularity and influence, concur. After all, one can view progress in different ways. If one believes that the meaning of human existence is to gain more political freedoms and acquire material wealth, then Western society is moving forward. But if one thinks, as a traditional Christian does, that Christ’s coming was humanity’s most important development, then material wealth looks far less important, for this life is fleeting, and suffering prepares people for eternal life, a process that physical riches hinder. Religious traditionalists see euthanasia, homosexuality, and other practices that the New Testament repeatedly condemns as representing not progress but a regression to pagan times. Viewed through this lens, Western society is more than imperfect; it is the very center of sin.

A great majority of Orthodox Christian believers in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova agree with all of this, as do many people in Central Asia. And these beliefs have propelled to power leaders who support the integration of the former Soviet republics. They have also helped Putin succeed in establishing an independent power center in Eurasia. Western meddling, meanwhile, has only served to further consolidate that power.

MOVING FORWARD

The situation in Ukraine remains tense. It might very well follow the example of Moldova, effectively splitting in two. The United States has perceived Russian calls for dialogue as an attempt to dictate unacceptable conditions. In Russia, the continuing strife has fueled the activity of nationalists and authoritarians. The latter group has become especially active of late and is presenting itself as the only force capable of protecting Russia’s interests. An uncontrolled escalation of the confrontation could even lead to outright war. The only solution is for the United States and its allies to change their position from one of confrontation to one of constructive engagement.

After all, a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis is still possible. Even during the Cold War, Moscow and the West managed to reach agreements on the neutral status of Austria and Finland. Those understandings did not in the least undermine the democratic systems or the general European orientation of those countries, and they even proved beneficial to their economies and international reputations. It is no coincidence that it was Finland, a neutral state with strong ties to both the West and the Soviet Union, that hosted the talks leading to the signing of the Helsinki Accords, which played a major role in easing Cold War tensions. The solution to the current crisis similarly lies in providing international guarantees for both Ukraine’s neutral status and the protection of its Russian-speaking population. The alternative would be far, far worse: Ukraine could well break apart, drawing Russia and the West into another prolonged confrontation.


I agree, broadly, with Mr Lukin's analysis in "Back to the Beginning" and I also agree that we, both, set ourselves (unintentionally) on a "Collision Course." Where I part company with him is that I do not accept that "Neither Russia nor any of the states seeking to join a Eurasian system wants to restore the Soviet Union or openly confront the West." I think Vladimir Putin wants both, albeit with a new, different outcome.

Obviously I cannot accept Lukin's prescription that "The only solution is for the United States and its allies to change their position from one of confrontation to one of constructive engagement." In fact I think we should disengage and, economically and politically, isolate Russia.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on June 25, 2014, 16:08:56
I agree with the prescription - isolation.

I disagree with Lukin on the origins.

My belief is that both the Kremlin and Beltway Washington both have it wrong.  And got it wrong long ago.

They labour under the delusion that they control their populaces and that deals made on their behalf will stick.  As Canadians dealing with the US we should no better.  (And we can't gloat - witness Meech Lake).

Governments govern with the consent of the governed.  Full stop.

A deal between Kennan and Gorbachev means nothing after 1,000,000,000 Europeans, Americans and Russians have their say.

It isn't too difficult to understand why Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Romanians, Moldovans and Georgians might not be as wedded to the notion of Russian rights after those same Russians arrived uninvited, stayed too long, denied them access to their own institutions and schools and declared themselves overlords.

The Russians living in Estonia or elsewhere, do not consider the Estonians legitimate suzerains in their own country.  They never have.  It is not difficult to understand the antipathy of the "non-Russians" to the Russians.  It is also easy to understand why the non-Russians might be eager to associate with non-Russians over Russians.

The Russians left in Eastern Europe are the same poor bastards that have been left stranded in the tidal pools by the retreat of every empire.  Bright folks figured out how to adapt to local realities quickly.  The not so bright often retreated with the tide or ended up dead.

The Russians of Donetsk, Crimea, Estonia and Transnistria are no different than the Brits of India, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Adapt or die.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on June 30, 2014, 11:39:06
Interceptions Rise as Russia Boosts Air Power (http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140628/DEFREG02/306280023/Interceptions-Rise-Russia-Boosts-Air-Power)
Quote
The Russian Air Force is upgrading its long-range aircraft, making the decades-old planes more lethal amid increasing encounters near US airspace, a top US general responsible for defending the American and Canadian airspace said.

“They are much, much better than they ever were during the Cold War,” Gen. Charles Jacoby, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command, said in an interview.

“One of the things we have seen is that it’s increasingly sophisticated [and] increasingly capable,” he said.

US and NATO aircraft have been intercepting Tu-95 Bear, Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-22 Backfire strategic bombers and numerous fighter aircraft since 2007 when the Russian Air Force resumed long-range aviation missions, which had stopped at the end of the Cold War.

“We’ve seen it go up and down a little bit, but steadily increase over the intervening seven years,” Jacoby said of the pace of the flights. “A lot of it depends on their exercise cycle. Sometimes it depends on what’s going on in the world.”

The intercepts typically take place near Alaska and down the western coast of Canada and the continental US. In Europe, they typically occur over the Baltic and North seas.

Since the middle of the past decade, the Russia Air Force has been modernizing its bomber aircraft and long-range missiles, according to Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London ....
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on July 03, 2014, 11:53:23
An interesting article quoting a former US ambassador on why Vladimir Putin behaves the way he does:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/07/michael-mcfaul-what-turned-putin-against-the-us/373866/

Quote
Why Putin Turned Against the U.S.

Former ambassador Michael McFaul on what really motivated Russia to invade Ukraine

David A. GrahamJul 2 2014, 5:56 PM ET

ASPEN, Colo.—One major divide in international relations, as well as in other social sciences, is between those who believe in structure and those who believe in agency. Members of the first group say leaders are just representations of cultures and nations, subject to long-running political dynamics; their counterparts insist, no, individual leaders make decisions that can change the course of history.

Discussing whether Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine herald a new or resurrected Cold War between Washington and Moscow, former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul placed himself firmly in the agency camp: He thinks the current crisis is a direct result of Putin's actions and personality. But while he didn't put it exactly this way, he suggested that Putin's worldview is shaped by the fact that the Russian president is a structuralist. McFaul made the comments at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is hosted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute.

"Is this a new Cold War? There are certain similarities. This is the greatest moment of confrontation since [the time of Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev," McFaul said. For example, he noted that not even in the depths of the Cold War was the Kremlin chief of staff subject to economic sanctions, which is the case today. "It’s a deeply tragic moment. It makes me wonder, and I know the president wonders, were we naive to try to think about a different relationship with Russia?"

There several ways of thinking about the recent crisis. One favorite frame, especially among Russian experts, is that this is simply the way Great Powers behave and the way they've behaved for centuries. Russia is a rising power, and it's only natural that it would seek to control more territory. That can't be written off entirely, McFaul said, but he doesn't see it as the main factor. First, he explained, if Russia had made a faster transition to democracy and markets—like, say, Poland did—the situation might be different. And second, he noted that Russian policy up until late February of 2014 was far more accommodating.
 
"I don’t think [Putin] was sitting as a kid dreaming about putting back the Russian empire," McFaul said. The lavish Sochi Olympics and the decision to release of imprisoned Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky were the actions of a nation trying to assimilate into the world; the crisis in Ukraine imperiled Putin's dream of creating an eastern version of the EU.

Another approach suggests that U.S. policy is to blame—either the Americans were far too aggressive, chastising Russia for its failings, driving NATO eastward, and supporting "color revolutions" in Eastern Europe, which drove Putin to paranoia; or else the Americans were too soft, letting Putin get away with his incursion into Georgia and telegraphing that they wouldn't strike back. McFaul rejected that, too, noting the long list of collaborations between the two governments up to February: a nuclear-arms-reduction treaty, distribution networks to Afghanistan, Iran sanctions, the Syrian chemical-weapons deal. Violent protests in 2010 in Kyrgyzstan didn't cause a crisis; Russian opinion polls showed two-thirds approval of the United States as recently as three years ago.

“Something that happened 20 years ago cannot explain what’s happening now if we were cooperating two years ago,” McFaul argued. That is perhaps not a completely convincing argument—as we learned during the Balkan Wars, among other conflicts, historical animosities can appear to have disappeared, only to reappear suddenly and violently—but it does undermine those who blame U.S. policy.

Instead, McFaul sees two crucial events as leading Putin to decide the U.S. was implacably opposed to him and determined to push him out of power, which together produced the current situation. The first was widespread protests against Putin in early 2012, which the Kremlin accused McFaul himself of organizing. “But that was not the end of the story, because Putin is a great compartmentalist," McFaul said. "He'd say, ‘I understand you’re trying to overthrow regimes in Syria and Iran and here,'" but still see ways to work on business deals or the chemical-weapons deal with America.

The second event came during negotiations for a peaceful exit for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych this winter. The American government was deeply involved in trying to broker a handover; Vice President Biden was on the phone with Yanukovych. Then the Ukrainian leader suddenly fled the country. "Putin thought that yet again the Americans had duped him. That’s when he said, 'I’m done worrying about what they think about me.'" In short, Putin had adopted a structuralist view. Believing that American grand strategy was geared toward undermining him at every turn, he rejected any attempt to reckon with Obama as an agent of policy. But that was an emotional decision—hence McFaul's allegiance to agency.

“We tend to assign a lot of rationale and logic to individuals and states, and my experience in government suggests ... they’re people with emotions, with worldviews, and that different people in that job will behave differently,” McFaul said. "The good news is that this is not part of a grand strategy where first they take Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, then Moldova, and then a piece of Estonia. This was a response to the collapse of the government in Kiev."

Yet even if the spark wasn't a grand strategy, the ground has now shifted. "The bad news is I think Putin is now locked into his worldview," McFaul said. "It’s going to be a long, long confrontational struggle with Russia that will last at least until Putin is no longer the leader."
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 14, 2014, 18:07:44
We can file this report, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Financial Times, under "It's Not Easy being Green Russia:"

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/668ee370-090e-11e4-8d27-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl#axzz37Thz6iI4
Quote
(http://paddle8.com/assets/img/about/press/financialTimes_logo.png)
Wooing China runs into local difficulty in Russia far east

By Kathrin Hille in Khabarovsk

July 14, 2014

When Russia and China inked a $400bn gas supply deal in May it marked an unexpected breakthrough after a decade of delays and bogged-down negotiations.

For Vladimir Putin, the deal was something more: the dawn of a new golden era in Russo-Chinese economic co-operation.

As relations with the west fray over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Mr Putin has reacted by seeking to throw open the door to Chinese trade and investment.

In addition to the gas deal, Moscow has lauded China as Russia’s most important economic partner, set up a host of joint projects in energy, infrastructure and technology, and estimated that bilateral trade will more than double by 2020 to $200bn.

Yet a visit to Pashkovo, a village on the banks of the Amur river that divides the two countries, suggests Mr Putin’s vision – for all its potential – is still beset by longstanding rivalry and mistrust.

In 2008, two Chinese forestry companies invested here with the aim of serving their nearby factory. Two years later, they found the door slammed in their faces after Russia closed the local border crossing.

“[To begin with], we would ship the wood across the river to our plant in China for further processing, just a few kilometres away,” says Zhao Fuquan, director of the sawmill Heilongjiang Xin Chun Timber Group runs here. “Now every truckload has to make a 700km detour. That cut our profits in half.”

His frustration is but one example of the enormous hurdles Chinese companies face in conquering Russia.

Most are active in the Russian far east, a vast, resource-rich but sparsely populated region between Lake Baikal and the Pacific coast.

Kangbo, a Chinese seller of agricultural machinery in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO), is struggling to keep afloat as Russian customs imposes strict quotas on large gear.

“We have to undergo an onerous application process for every single combine harvester we want to import. In 2013 the government approved only one machine for the JAO for the entire year,” says Chen Dajun, the local manager.

Oubangde, another Chinese forestry firm, had its logging concession shut down last year after federal authorities conducted a series of raids and found fault with fire security measures, work permits and tax records.

(http://im.ft-static.com/content/images/b92948d4-0b6e-11e4-9e55-00144feabdc0.img)

Zu Guofu, head of the company’s operations in Russia, accuses the regional government of systematically targeting Chinese investors.

The Chinese are making inroads and steadily weaving themselves into the fabric of the economy. In Khabarovsky Krai, they accounted for 4 per cent of foreign direct investment last year, up from 2 per cent in 2009. If round-tripping by Russian groups registered offshore was excluded, the ratio would be much higher.

In Birobidzhan, capital of the JAO, most new buildings are built by Chinese contractors and the Chinese play a growing role in the local retail, logistics, hotel and recycling sector. “Without the Chinese, this whole place would stop running,” says Wang Mingwei, an official who represents the city of Yichun in Birobidzhan.

Larger firms are now following the small companies that spearheaded the move. Fuyao, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of car glass, has set up shop south of Moscow where it supplies a Volkswagen plant.

Russian officials say they are wooing Chinese investors but acknowledge that it is a process fraught with challenges for both sides.

“Bilateral trade and investment are growing fast, and all the more so now since the Ukraine crisis,” says Maxim Tarasov, head of the foreign economic co-operation and investment department at the ministry of economic development in the Khabarovsky Krai.

But echoing views widespread in Russia, he complains that Chinese investors are mainly interested in getting their hands on Russia’s natural resources and it is hard to persuade them to set up manufacturing operations or employ Russian staff – something Moscow considers key to making the partnership benefit the Russian economy. “The Chinese want whatever is most profitable,” says Mr Tarasov.

The Chinese have not endeared themselves to the locals by using mainly Chinese workers in the Russian far east – similar to their approach in Africa and Latin America.

Haihua, the other wood processing plant in Pashkovo, employs 105 Chinese and only 20 Russians. Chinese managers claim that local villagers are too lazy and too often drunk. Chinese staff, who stay at dormitories at the plant, work seven days a week from dawn to dusk.

The disregard for local knowledge and customs has proved costly at times. Consider China National Electric Engineering, a state-owned enterprise that is building an iron ore extraction plant in the JAO for an affiliate of the London-listed Petropavlovsk Group.

CNEEC was fined repeatedly for failing safety inspections. According to Gu Xiaomei, the deputy general manager, no member of the project team had any Russia experience and the company only hired a Russian chief engineer after the unsuccessful inspections.

Such sensitivities could become even more acute as the Chinese make a grab for Russian land. In recent years, Chinese state farms have followed a wave of individual Chinese farmers to the Russian far east. According to Russian data, the agricultural area contracted by farms from China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang is expected to expand from less than 50,000 hectares in 2008 to 666,666 hectares in 2016.

As China’s vice-president argued during a Moscow visit in May: “You have the land and the resources, and we have the people and the money.”
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Japan and South Korea push their companies

Japan and South Korea are prodding their companies to team up in Russia to stem China’s economic power there, writes Kathrin Hille in Khabarovsk.

The embassies of Japan and Korea have in recent weeks hosted companies from both countries with investments in Russia and are planning more meetings this year, according to diplomats and company executives.

“Japanese and Korean companies in Russia should consider each other as partners now that China is getting stronger and stronger,” said a Japanese diplomat. “Russia’s decision to seek a much closer partnership with China can only create pressure on our economic interests. Our companies can counter this.”

The initiative follows Moscow’s move to crank up trade, financial and investment relations with China as economic ties with Europe, its main source of foreign investment, suffer as a result of the standoff over Ukraine.

Since the US and the EU slapped sanctions on Russian government officials and businesspeople, President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly singled out China as an important economic partner.

His signing of a $400bn gas export deal in May, which Russian state firm Gazprom  had failed to close with its Chinese partner for more than a decade, is seen as a signal of a new willingness in Moscow to make concessions to receive access to the Chinese market and attract Chinese funds.

Last week, Russian and Chinese companies and regions signed contracts worth $3.15bn at a bilateral trade fair, with most funds earmarked for trade with Russia’s far east.

This has caused alarm in Tokyo and Seoul. This year, Park Byung-hwan, an official at the economic section of the Korean embassy in Moscow, warned that China was gaining a “huge impact on the region” and called Chinese companies’ growing presence there a threat.

Seoul and Tokyo see the Russian far east, with its energy and raw material resources and reserve of agricultural land, as vital for future energy and food security. South Korea’s keen interest in the energy resources of Russia’s far east was one factor behind Seoul’s decision to support the development of the Rason port in North Korea, which is linked to the Russian rail system.

Additional reporting by Simon Mundy in Seoul and Ben McLannahan in Tokyo


I have mentioned before that the Russia Far East is Asian and, in the minds of many Chinese, Asian Siberia ought to be a Chinese vassal.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on July 14, 2014, 21:59:29
Just as the Tungusic Manchus of the Qing and the Mongols of the Yuan were vassals of the Han?

The Han have not demonstrated a propensity for prolonged ventures outside the Middle Kingdom.

I still feel that both the Rus and the Han take the people of the steppes too much for granted.  The Rus are losing influence in the East and the Han are gaining influence.  That doesn't mean that either of them are particularly welcome, or at home, out there. 

The Han's best bet is to stay home and trade.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 15, 2014, 09:40:59
The Chinese do not, in my opinion, want to own Siberia. (Some Chinese feel the Qing went too far in annexing Xinjiang.) They do, however, reject the notion that Russia, a European power, should have sovereignty in East Asia. My sense is that the preferred (by the Chinese) solution is an independent East Siberia ~ maybe several states ~ within China's sphere of influence.

Staying home and trading is the best idea ... but the Russian Far East is a problem.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on July 15, 2014, 12:28:09

 ... but the Russian Far East is a problem.

Agreed in full.

With respect to Qing  annexing Xingjiang to China: perhaps, given the geographic origins of the Qing, they saw it as Xingjiang annexing China?  :)



Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 21, 2014, 16:02:27
There's some discussion, including in e.g. Bloomberg (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-21/obama-seen-gaining-on-putin-as-u-s-prods-eu-on-sanctions.html) that Putin is doing what he's doing in Ukraine to shore up his support at home, even though he must know that he's on the wrong side of history in the eyes of most, much anyway, of the world. It might be that Putin has troubles, more than are visible to us, at home and he must take risks with his international reputation in order to score domestic political points.

The contrary opinion is that he's trying to strengthen Russia's global 'hand' by acting the bully, and the increased domestic support is just a nice byproduct.

------------------

Edited to add:

More on this idea in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Financial Times:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/cc3ca75c-10c5-11e4-812b-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz380Qzv9iv
Quote
(http://paddle8.com/assets/img/about/press/financialTimes_logo.png)
The Kremlin’s Machiavelli has led Russia to disaster
Putin is revealed as a reckless gambler leading his country into economic and political isolation

By Gideon Rachman

July 21, 2014

Just a couple of months ago it was fashionable to laud Vladimir Putin for his strategic genius. American rightwingers contrasted his sure-footedness with their own president’s alleged weakness. In a column entitled “Obama vs Putin, The Mismatch ”, Charles Krauthammer argued: “Under this president, Russia has run rings around America.” Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, praised Mr Putin’s decisiveness and cooed: “That’s what you call a leader.” Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence party, said Mr Putin was the world leader he most admired.

How misplaced all this adulation looks after the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Russia’s apparent policy of supplying anti-aircraft missiles to the Ukrainian rebels was not simply immoral. It also gives the lie to the idea that Mr Putin is some kind of strategic genius. Instead he is revealed as a reckless gambler, whose paranoid and cynical policies are leading Russia into economic and political isolation.

The Kremlin’s mini Machiavelli believed he could destabilise eastern Ukraine while maintaining plausible deniability about Russia’s links to the separatist rebels.

However, the puppet master failed to keep hold of the strings. After the deaths of nearly 300 innocent civilians, a harsh light is shining on Russia’s involvement in the tragedy. Outside Russia, only a hard core of Putin apologists is likely to accept denials of involvement.

The Russian authorities now face a very difficult choice. If they co-operate with an international investigation into the MH17 atrocity, the results are likely to be extremely embarrassing. But if they block the investigation, shelter behind conspiracy theories or even send troops into eastern Ukraine, they will encourage an even fiercer international backlash. Last week, even before the airliner tragedy, the US had announced intensified sanctions. The EU is also now likely to toughen its stance. Some big Russian companies are losing access to western capital markets.

Political isolation also looms. Russia has already been chucked out of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations. The Australians, who lost several citizens on the flight, are balking at welcoming Mr Putin to a G20 summit in Brisbane in November. Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup will come into question before long.

Mr Putin’s mistakes extend beyond the irresponsibility of enabling the separatists to shoot at passing aircraft. That blunder has its roots in at least four other failed policies. First, there was the wildly excessive reaction to the idea that Ukraine might sign a trade deal with the EU. The idea that Brussels was desperately trying to grab Ukraine was paranoid. In reality, the EU has, for decades, been embarrassingly reluctant to admit Ukraine. Nato membership – which Moscow evoked as the great threat to Russia – was a similarly remote prospect. At its 2008 summit Nato declined to put Ukraine on the path to membership, and that has been the basic position ever since.

Russia’s second blunder was to stir up unrest in Ukraine while denying responsibility. This must have seemed smart in a cynical sort of way – and it certainly caught the world off guard when it came to the annexation of Crimea. But in eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s manipulation has been less effective and harder to disguise. This has culminated in the MH17 tragedy. The result is that Russia has the worst of both worlds. It is not completely in control of events but is still blamed for them. And rightly so because, even if the order to shoot did not come from Moscow, the Russians enabled the disaster to happen.

The third trap that Mr Putin has created for himself involves the manipulation of Russian public opinion through increasingly crude, nationalistic propaganda. This has had the desired effect of boosting the president’s approval ratings. But it also makes it much harder for him to back down. Anything less than total support for the separatists will open Mr Putin to the charge that he has failed to protect Russian speakers from the “fascists” his media claim control Ukraine.

His fourth blunder has been consistently to underestimate the reaction in the west. Perhaps he was convinced by the sycophants around him – and their echo chamber overseas – that he is a master strategist and that the west is feeble. The west’s response has sometimes been slow but real sanctions have been passed, and more are on their way. Russia’s business leaders are aghast at the situation. But, for now, they are powerless.

By allowing himself to be sucked into an unnecessary and destructive confrontation with the west, Mr Putin is also engaging with the wrong problem. For all Moscow’s paranoia about Nato, the real strategic challenge to Russia is the rise of China. But, locked into a confrontation with the west, Mr Putin has become a supplicant of Beijing, as is evident in the lopsided energy deal recently signed with China.

It is the tame Russian media’s job to gloss over this record of failure and misjudgment and instead to present Mr Putin as a hero standing up to a hostile world. Opinion polls suggest this campaign is working well for the moment.

The danger is that the only way for Mr Putin to disguise his repeated failures is to further ratchet up the atmosphere of crisis, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in which Russia is indeed faced by an increasingly hostile west. That policy is dangerous for the world – and, most of all, for Russia itself.


I think Mr Rachman has identified Russia's real enemy: it's China, not the West/NATO.


-------------------

Further edit to add:

This is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

Quote
(http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/media/www/images/flag/gam-masthead.png)

Harper saw through Putin from the start


J.L. GRANATSTEIN
Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Jul. 22 2014

J.L. Granatstein is a fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. William Kaplan is a Toronto lawyer and historian.

Stephen Harper was right. It’s not fashionable today to say that about anything the Prime Minister says or does. It’s especially against the current to praise his foreign policy which, most critics agree, is distinguished only by its unbalanced megaphone style and simplistic good versus evil rhetoric. But how can anyone deny that on Vladimir Putin, Mr. Harper, from the get go, got it right on the money?

Consider the recent record. After Russia orchestrated the absorption of Crimea into the Soviet Union – oops – into Russia, the Prime Minister told a German audience that Mr. Putin was a “throwback” to the USSR. “Unfortunate as it sounds,” Mr. Harper observed, “it’s increasingly apparent to me that the Cold War has never left Vladimir Putin’s mind.” Then the Prime Minister added, “we simply … cannot afford the risk of Europe going back to being a continent where people seize territory … where the bigger military powers are prepared to invade their neighbours or carve off pieces.” The economy was important, he went on, but global security remained Canada’s highest priority.

In April, Mr. Harper spoke out again: “When a major power acts in a way that is so clearly aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic, this represents a significant threat to the peace and stability of the world, and it’s time we all recognized the depth and the seriousness of that threat.” All nations had to be rallied “to understand that peace and stability is being threatened here in a way that has not been threatened since the end of the Cold War.”

From the outset Mr. Harper declared the presence of Russian troops in Crimea to be an “illegal military occupation” and said Canada would refuse to recognize the forthcoming referendum that Mr. Putin used to “legitimize” its seizure. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird chimed in to call the upcoming referendum “a Soviet-style tactic that’s unacceptable for a G8 country…” So it was.

Russian-sponsored and Russian-assisted separatist groups were already operating in eastern Ukraine, arming Russian nationalist thugs to fight against the legitimate Kiev government. The Canadian government believed that Russian special forces were on the ground, training the separatists and providing them with weapons. In May, Prime Minister Harper was sharp-tongued: “We are obviously concerned by the continuing escalation of violence in Ukraine, which to me very much appears to be clearly what I would call a slow-motion invasion on the part of the Putin regime.”

Thus, when Mr. Harper flew off to Europe on a week-long trip at the beginning of June, a trip that was to culminate with a gathering of world leaders on the Normandy beaches to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Mr. Harper declared forthrightly that he had no interest in talks with Mr. Putin. The Russian leader should be present at Normandy, he said, recognizing the critical role the Soviet Union played in defeating Nazi Germany, but even if European leaders wanted to talk to him, he did not. All the Europeans should do was deliver a clear denunciation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Mr. Harper said in Brussels that the message should be about “ending illegal occupations, about ending provocative actions, ending the supporting of violent actions in eastern Ukraine.” He called upon the G7 to take immediate action.

There were a succession of sanctions by Western nations against Russia, and there will be more. And NATO, including Canada, began military efforts to bolster the states that might be in Mr. Putin’s crosshairs next. These measures were pinpricks, though they will now be increased further.

The reason, of course, is that a Malaysian airliner was destroyed by a Russian surface-to-air missile almost certainly fired by Russian-aided separatists in the Donetsk “People’s Republic.” The evidence is not yet all in, but Mr. Harper’s response, again, was exactly right in tone and content. “It is clear,” he announced Monday, “that the Putin regime’s continuing provocative military action against Ukraine, its illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula, and its failure to end its support to armed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine constitute a threat to international peace and security.” Canada, the Prime Minister said, in concert with its allies would step up its sanctions.

From the very beginning of this current crisis, Canada’s Prime Minister has been dead right in his assessment of Vladimir Putin. To Moscow, the supporters and officials of the Ukrainian government are regularly painted as fascists and Nazis. But to Mr. Harper, and now incontrovertibly to rest of the world, Mr. Putin is a Stalinist using Nazi big-lie techniques and Soviet-era disinformation tactics to try to camouflage his government’s actions and shift blame. It won’t work, and to Stephen Harper’s credit, he not only saw these appalling tactics for what they were months ago, but was among the first Western leaders to call on the world to take action.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on July 22, 2014, 12:09:42
Quote
The third trap that Mr Putin has created for himself involves the manipulation of Russian public opinion through increasingly crude, nationalistic propaganda. This has had the desired effect of boosting the president’s approval ratings. But it also makes it much harder for him to back down. Anything less than total support for the separatists will open Mr Putin to the charge that he has failed to protect Russian speakers from the “fascists” his media claim control Ukraine.

I think this bit is very important. Putin woke up the tiger of Russia's traditional paranoid xenophobic nationalism, then climbed up on its back. (Look at the current coat of arms of the Russian state: a direct throwback to Imperial Russia: Great Russia is back!)  Now, if he tries to climb off the tiger, it might eat him.

And, God knows, we have no idea what even greater nasty might take his place, if Putin wasn't enough for the Russian self-image.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on July 22, 2014, 12:23:43
Stratfor's take (http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2014/07/22/can_vladimir_putin_survive.html) on Putin's situation and prospects....

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 23, 2014, 06:30:13
I think this bit is very important. Putin woke up the tiger of Russia's traditional paranoid xenophobic nationalism, then climbed up on its back. (Look at the current coat of arms of the Russian state: a direct throwback to Imperial Russia: Great Russia is back!)  Now, if he tries to climb off the tiger, it might eat him.

And, God knows, we have no idea what even greater nasty might take his place, if Putin wasn't enough for the Russian self-image.


More on this theme in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/putin-cant-back-down-now/article19718068/#dashboard/follows/
Quote
(http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/media/www/images/flag/gam-masthead.png)
Putin can’t back down now

MARK MACKINNON
The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Jul. 23 2014

The pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin grows each day. He must end his support for the rebels accused of shooting down a passenger plane over eastern Ukraine, Western leaders say, or face tougher economic sanctions and greater political isolation.

And each day, Mr. Putin makes it clearer that he’s not about to bend.

Mr. Putin is in a trap of his own making following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. He’s unable – even if he were willing – to meet the West’s demands, in large part due to the anti-Western opinion in Russia he and his Kremlin have moulded over 15 years in power.

Having cast the West as Russia’s enemy for so long, and having personally vowed to protect ethnic Russians everywhere, analysts say Mr. Putin would be fiercely criticized at home if he pulled an about-face and abandoned the separatists of the Donetsk People’s Republic under pressure from Washington and London.

Much of the world sees the pro-Russian rebels as the villains of the MH17 saga. But they have been portrayed as heroes – standing up for their right to speak Russian and choose their own course – on Kremlin-run television for the past five months, making it almost impossible for Mr. Putin to desert them now.

“People are still supportive of the government, and they buy into this picture created by Russian TV of a fascist government in Kiev trying to destroy the population of the southeast [of Ukraine], of Novorossiya,” said Sergey Utkin, head of strategic assessment at the Moscow-based Russian Academy of Sciences. “It’s a myth that’s dear to Russian conservatives,” he added, “and we have quite a lot of Russian conservatives these days – call them revanchists if you like.”

“I’m afraid we can’t hope that this conflict will end soon. Most probably, it will escalate.”

In such an atmosphere, Mr. Putin is under domestic pressure to do more, not less, to support the rebels in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine, an area collectively known as Donbass. “Putin risks coming into contradiction with public opinion [if he cuts support to the rebels]. Public opinion is very clear – do not allow the killing of ethnic Russians in Donbass,” said Sergei Markov, a Moscow-based political scientist and unofficial Kremlin spokesman.

Amid Ukrainian allegations of a renewed buildup of tanks and troops on the Russian side of the border, Mr. Markov said the option of direct Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine remained very much on the table. “The fact that Putin didn’t send the troops in yet is because it requires more preparation.”

Kiev and the West accuse Russia of having fomented the civil war in eastern Ukraine, supplying the rebels with fighters and weapons including tanks and anti-aircraft systems. More than 1,000 combatants and civilians have been killed since fighting began in April.

While other observers feel Mr. Putin is extremely unlikely to send Russian troops into eastern Ukraine following the MH17 disaster, there is still a sense in Moscow that the country is locked into a confrontation with the West with no obvious way out.

Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, once a close associate of Mr. Putin’s, warned Tuesday that there were some in Russia “who have long wanted to distance us, who have wanted isolation.” He said Russians risked seeing their standards of living fall by as much as one-fifth if the conflict in Ukraine continues and the country’s confrontation with the West grows.

“All this has fallen onto fertile ground and I’m just surprised at the scale of the anti-Western rhetoric which has emerged here,” Mr. Kudrin told the Itar-Tass news service.

Since last week’s downing of MH17, which killed all 298 people on board, Russian media have created another alternate reality, one in which the rebels aren’t presumed guilty of firing the surface-to-air missile. Theories suggesting the Ukrainian military may have downed the plane to frame Russia and its allies are given plenty of airtime.

Tuesday saw a fresh tranche of actions aimed at upping the pressure on Mr. Putin. The European Union said it was preparing new sanctions to punish Russia for its actions in Ukraine, while the United Kingdom announced a public inquiry into the 2006 death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB operative who was poisoned with polonium while sipping tea in a London hotel, to determine whether the Russian state was involved.

Some Russian observers argue that each new round of blame and sanctions from the West makes Mr. Putin even less likely to do what’s being demanded of him.

“Any pressure like [new sanctions] would only strengthen the hardliners in Russia, and only lead to a more robust and tough position,” said Pavel Andreev, executive director of the Valdai Club Foundation, a state-backed foreign-policy think tank in Moscow.

Indeed, rather than acknowledging his weakening position and stepping away from his unsavoury allies in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin emerged from a much-anticipated meeting of his Security Council sounding as if he was preparing instead for an arms race against the NATO military alliance.

“NATO is demonstratively reinforcing its grouping on the territory of East European states, including in the areas of the Black and Baltic Seas,” Mr. Putin said, referring to recent alliance deployments in Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. “Because of this, we need to implement all planned measures to boost the country’s defence capabilities fully and in time, naturally including Crimea and Sevastopol.”

Crimea and the Black Sea port of Sevastopol are considered part of Ukraine by those in the West who consider Russia’s March annexation of the peninsula illegal. The seizure of Crimea marked the start of a fresh spiral in relations between Moscow and the West, with the United States, the EU and Canada implementing several rounds of sanctions since then.

The Crimea annexation was part of Russia’s response to a February revolution in Kiev, which saw the Moscow-friendly government of Viktor Yanukovych ousted in what Russia says was a Western-supported “coup.” The new government of President Petro Poroshenko is portrayed by the Kremlin as having “fascist” leanings, even though far-right candidates were distant finishers in May’s election.


I suspect no one (not me, certainly) is absolutely certain about whether "Mr. Putin is in a trap of his own making" or whether he is preparing Russia for another all out struggle with the US led West. Remember that Stalin could have been a major - almost certainly the biggest - beneficiary of American generosity in the 1940s and 50s: the Marshal Plan and so on. But he chose to challenge the US led West for global supremacy. 

"Russia," Churchill famously said, "is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on July 23, 2014, 09:08:07
Quote
“All this has fallen onto fertile ground and I’m just surprised at the scale of the anti-Western rhetoric which has emerged here,” Mr. Kudrin told the Itar-Tass news service.

Surprised? Really? I'd say it was only to be expected.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 25, 2014, 07:58:03
The Economist makes Russia/Putin its 'cover story' this week:

(http://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/print-cover-thumbnail-superhero/print-covers/20140726_cna400.jpg)

Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from that newspaper, is that 'lead' story:

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21608645-vladimir-putins-epic-deceits-have-grave-consequences-his-people-and-outside-world-web
My emphasis added
Quote
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A web of lies
Vladimir Putin’s epic deceits have grave consequences for his people and the outside world

Jul 26th 2014 | From the print edition

IN 1991, when Soviet Communism collapsed, it seemed as if the Russian people might at last have the chance to become citizens of a normal Western democracy. Vladimir Putin’s disastrous contribution to Russia’s history has been to set his country on a different path. And yet many around the world, through self-interest or self-deception, have been unwilling to see Mr Putin as he really is.

The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the killing of 298 innocent people and the desecration of their bodies in the sunflower fields of eastern Ukraine, is above all a tragedy of lives cut short and of those left behind to mourn. But it is also a measure of the harm Mr Putin has done. Under him Russia has again become a place in which truth and falsehood are no longer distinct and facts are put into the service of the government. Mr Putin sets himself up as a patriot, but he is a threat—to international norms, to his neighbours and to the Russians themselves, who are intoxicated by his hysterical brand of anti-Western propaganda.

The world needs to face the danger Mr Putin poses. If it does not stand up to him today, worse will follow.

Crucifiction and other stories

Mr Putin has blamed the tragedy of MH17 on Ukraine, yet he is the author of its destruction. A high-court’s worth of circumstantial evidence points to the conclusion that pro-Russian separatists fired a surface-to-air missile out of their territory at what they probably thought was a Ukrainian military aircraft. Separatist leaders boasted about it on social media and lamented their error in messages intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence and authenticated by America (see article).

Russia’s president is implicated in their crime twice over. First, it looks as if the missile was supplied by Russia, its crew was trained by Russia, and after the strike the launcher was spirited back to Russia. Second, Mr Putin is implicated in a broader sense because this is his war. The linchpins of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic are not Ukrainian separatists but Russian citizens who are, or were, members of the intelligence services. Their former colleague, Mr Putin, has paid for the war and armed them with tanks, personnel carriers, artillery—and batteries of surface-to-air missiles. The separatists pulled the trigger, but Mr Putin pulled the strings.

The enormity of the destruction of flight MH17 should have led Mr Putin to draw back from his policy of fomenting war in eastern Ukraine. Yet he has persevered, for two reasons. First, in the society he has done so much to mould, lying is a first response. The disaster immediately drew forth a torrent of contradictory and implausible theories from his officials and their mouthpieces in the Russian media: Mr Putin’s own plane was the target; Ukrainian missile-launchers were in the vicinity. And the lies got more complex. The Russian fiction that a Ukrainian fighter jet had fired the missile ran into the problem that the jet could not fly at the altitude of MH17, so Russian hackers then changed a Wikipedia entry to say that the jets could briefly do so. That such clumsily Soviet efforts are easily laughed off does not defeat their purpose, for their aim is not to persuade but to cast enough doubt to make the truth a matter of opinion. In a world of liars, might not the West be lying, too?

Second, Mr Putin has become entangled in a web of his own lies, which any homespun moralist could have told him was bound to happen. When his hirelings concocted propaganda about fascists running Kiev and their crucifixion of a three-year-old boy, his approval ratings among Russian voters soared by almost 30 percentage points, to over 80%. Having roused his people with falsehoods, the tsar cannot suddenly wriggle free by telling them that, on consideration, Ukraine’s government is not too bad. Nor can he retreat from the idea that the West is a rival bent on Russia’s destruction, ready to resort to lies, bribery and violence just as readily as he does. In that way, his lies at home feed his abuses abroad.

Stop spinning

In Russia such doublespeak recalls the days of the Soviet Union when Pravda claimed to tell the truth. This mendocracy will end in the same way as that one did: the lies will eventually unravel, especially as it becomes obvious how much money Mr Putin and his friends have stolen from the Russian people, and he will fall. The sad novelty is that the West takes a different attitude this time round. In the old days it was usually prepared to stand up to the Soviet Union, and call out its falsehoods. With Mr Putin it looks the other way.

Take Ukraine. The West imposed fairly minor sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea, and threatened tougher ones if Mr Putin invaded eastern Ukraine. To all intents and purposes, he did just that: troops paid for by Russia, albeit not in Russian uniforms, control bits of the country. But the West found it convenient to go along with Mr Putin’s lie, and the sanctions eventually imposed were too light and too late. Similarly, when he continued to supply the rebels, under cover of a ceasefire that he claimed to have organised, Western leaders vacillated.

Since the murders of the passengers of MH17 the responses have been almost as limp. The European Union is threatening far-reaching sanctions—but only if Mr Putin fails to co-operate with the investigation or he fails to stop the flow of arms to the separatists. France has said that it will withhold the delivery of a warship to Mr Putin if necessary, but is proceeding with the first of the two vessels on order. The Germans and Italians claim to want to keep diplomatic avenues open, partly because sanctions would undermine their commercial interests. Britain calls for sanctions, but it is reluctant to harm the City of London’s profitable Russian business. America is talking tough but has done nothing new.

Enough. The West should face the uncomfortable truth that Mr Putin’s Russia is fundamentally antagonistic. Bridge-building and resets will not persuade him to behave as a normal leader. The West should impose tough sanctions now, pursue his corrupt friends and throw him out of every international talking shop that relies on telling the truth. Anything else is appeasement—and an insult to the innocents on MH17.

From the print edition: Leaders


Indeed!
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on July 25, 2014, 09:39:24
My very unscientific  impression is that in fact, public opinion in the West is rapidly turning against Russia. Of course this is not a universal trend, nor should we expect it to be in such diverse and pluralistic societies, but I think it is significant. If Russia continues to tough it out (which they almost have to...), I think that they will continue to lose the public opinion war.

To me this shows the importance of free, diverse and fractious media. That doesn't really exist in Russia (with a few brave exceptions), but it does in the West. I know that we spill a lot of digital ink on the pages of this site in slagging the media, but in my opinion in their diversity, sarcasm, cynicism and freedom the media are one of the very few real guardians of democracy. The fact that they are frequently at loggerheads with governments is a good sign of this.

If Russia were truly to have traditions of democracy, individual freedom, tolerance and free media, it's interesting to imagine what the country would be like, and what its role in the world would be. But, of course, this is counterfactual pipe-dreaming: I don't think there is any fertile soil in Russian society for any of that.



Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on July 25, 2014, 12:06:39
....
To me this shows the importance of free, diverse and fractious media. That doesn't really exist in Russia (with a few brave exceptions), but it does in the West. I know that we spill a lot of digital ink on the pages of this site in slagging the media, but in my opinion in their diversity, sarcasm, cynicism and freedom the media are one of the very few real guardians of democracy. The fact that they are frequently at loggerheads with governments is a good sign of this.
....

Agreed entirely.  My only beef with the media is when they get above their station and start to believe that they are arbiters of "The Truth".  I enjoy reading one fantastical opinion as much as another.  I become vexed when the opinionated are also intolerant and full of themselves. 

(Sorry for the tangent).
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: pbi on July 25, 2014, 14:09:46
Agreed entirely.  My only beef with the media is when they get above their station and start to believe that they are arbiters of "The Truth".  I enjoy reading one fantastical opinion as much as another.  I become vexed when the opinionated are also intolerant and full of themselves. 

(Sorry for the tangent).

Yes, but twas ever so. Go back to the very beginnings of the old 17th century newsheets, and I think you'll find that objectivity was not only unheard of, but probably would not have been understood. All media takes one stand or another, and if they are serious about journalism they probably believe strongly that what they are writing is "true".

OK...maybe not the National Enquirer....
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on July 26, 2014, 19:15:21
Sanctions where they really hurt: expose Putin's own web of offshore accounts, real estate holdings and other financial shenanigans:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/07/24/how_to_kneecap_the_thug_in_the_kremlin_putin_ukraine_mh17

Quote
Last week, Putin’s wholly owned guerrilla subsidiary in Ukraine blew 298 civilians out of the sky, looted the belongings of the victims, let their cadavers rot for days in the hot summer sun, then violently obstructed OSCE monitors from inspecting the carnage. Talk of a forensic “investigation” at this point is just that — talk. Furthermore, according to U.S. intelligence, the Kremlin was evidently so pleased with this performance that it has dispatched more materiel to the culprits in eastern Ukraine. This new hardware includes rocket launchers, light arms, and tanks — only adding to the sophisticated weapons already sent in to aid the rebel cause. There are “indications,” U.S. officials say, that advanced Russian anti-aircraft systems — such as vehicle-mounted Buk (or SA-11) missile launchers, which defense and aviation analysts agree were responsible for downing MH17 — had been moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia and then back to the Motherland following the immolation of the airliner. The West has lately discovered something about Putin that Marina Litvinenko did eight years ago: his penchant for covering up his worst crimes. . . .

Let’s give Putin a clear choice: Either he can continue subventing and enabling the bloodletting in eastern Ukraine, or we can expose the enormous global network of offshore bank accounts, dummy companies, and real estate holdings that belong to him and his criminal elite. A mafia state should be treated as such. And information should once again be weaponized as it was during the Cold War. Moscow has already gotten a head start, by leaking compromised telephone calls between members of our State Department and between Eurocrats and NATO-allied state officials.

Investigative journalism has already yielded reams of copy on where some of the Putinist wealth is hidden, and how it got there. Much of it is in EU jurisdictions, which are subject to sanctions and/or concerted American diplomatic overtures. The U.S. Treasury Department, the CIA, and the FBI all know more about Putin’s and his cronies’ billions than they say publicly.

excerpt from the longer article
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on July 28, 2014, 06:40:00
The Russian air force's "poke, poke, poke" efforts continue ....
Quote
Polish aviators, who are heading the NATO air-policing mission in the Baltic states for the fifth time, say that they are faced with growing activity of the Russian Air Forces.

Lieutenant Colonel Piotr Wyrembski, deputy head of the mission, told BNS that NATO fighter jets usually have to take off from the base in Šiauliai, north Lithuania, in order to escort Russian warplanes flying from northern Russia to its Kaliningrad region.

In his words, this can be explained by growing frequency in Russia's war games and reinforced Russian Air Force.

"The activity in the air-space is growing gradually and it can be seen every year. A few years ago, it was rather trivial, and now it [the number of take-offs] is growing with every rotation and every mission," said Wyrembski.

A Polish air contingent currently serves in the Lithuanian Air Force Aviation Base in Šiauliai with British airmen. In September, the mission will be taken over by Canada and Portugal, before going back to Poland and Great Britain again in January ....
Lithuania Tribune, 28 Jul 14 (http://bit.ly/1ozH7kM)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on July 29, 2014, 11:59:36
(http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20131024172346/playstationallstarsbattleroyale/images/5/53/Robocop.jpg)

Coming soon to Latin American cities near you.  Brought to you by Rosoboronexport.

Russia is exporting SafeCitiesTM

http://www.defense-aerospace.com/article-view/release/155847/russia-plans-to-build-%E2%80%9Csafe-cities%E2%80%9D-in-latin-america.html
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on July 29, 2014, 13:11:40
Who said the World Bank was apolitical?

Canada and the USA turn the screws on Russia's credit according to this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Bloomberg News:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-24/u-s-canada-to-oppose-world-bank-development-projects-in-russia.html
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U.S., Canada to Oppose World Bank Aid Projects in Russia

By Sandrine Rastello and Theophilos Argitis

Jul 25, 2014

The U.S. and Canada will oppose World Bank projects in Russia, adding economic pressure on the country over its actions in Ukraine.

The U.S. will vote against Russia-related loans and investments that come before the board, Treasury Department spokeswoman Holly Shulman said. Melissa Lantsman, a spokeswoman for Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver, said her country also opposes such projects. European governments are discussing doing the same, a European official said, asking not to be named because the discussions are confidential. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said his nation may reconsider support.

The World Bank unit that lends directly to governments has 10 investment projects currently in Russia totaling $668 million, though less than half of the total has been disbursed, according to the bank. It also has nine Russian projects in preparation worth a total of $1.34 billion, including one on pre-school education and another focused on energy efficiency, according to its website.

While Canada and the U.S. account for about one-fifth of votes at the 188-member institution, their opposition would be enough to delay loans, said Scott Morris, a former deputy assistant secretary for development finance and debt at the Treasury in Washington. If European Union countries follow the U.S., the bank’s largest shareholder, projects could end up not being presented to the board, he said.

Halting Projects

“If they informally took a poll of their shareholders and understood that the balance weighed toward opposition, it’s very unlikely the bank management would proceed to bring something to the board and watch it be rejected,” Morris said. “This is a very difficult thing for the president of the World Bank to navigate.”

World Bank spokesman David Theis declined to comment.

Two days ago, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development bowed to its shareholders and said it’s halting new Russia projects after a majority indicated it would not support them. European Union leaders last week had made it part of their latest round of sanctions over Russia’s involvement in unrest in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. and Canada have also decided to oppose EBRD projects in Russia, the spokeswomen said.

“We will consider what to do based on what the European and other nations decide to do,” Japan’s Aso said.

The U.S. is pushing Europe to toughen its stance toward President Vladimir Putin a week after a Malaysian commercial jet was destroyed by a missile American officials say was probably fired from a Russian-supplied launcher. Russia denies involvement in the disaster, which led to the death of 298 people.

Nearing Contraction

Yesterday, the International Monetary Fund said Russia’s economic growth will slow to 0.2 percent this year from 1.3 percent last year. Sanctions may weaken growth even further, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard told reporters in Mexico City.

While the economic impact of scrapped development projects on Russia would be minor, the opposition to World Bank support could prove painful if Russia needed a rapid disbursement from the bank, said Morris, a senior associate at the Center for Global Development, an aid research group in Washington.

The World Bank already was thrust into discussions over how to use economic sanctions to punish Russia, when the lender eight weeks ago approved its first investment there since Putin annexed Crimea. Canada then voted against it, while the U.S. and some EU countries abstained.

Kim’s View

The International Finance Corp., the World Bank’s private-sector arm, voted May 29 for parts of a 250 million euros ($337 million) package enabling French grocery retailer Groupe Auchan SA to expand in Russia, Vietnam and other emerging markets.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim tried to keep his institution outside of the debate earlier this week, saying the bank has a good relationship with both Ukraine and Russia.

“We are going to continue to focus on trying to provide the kind of support and advice that will help both of those countries in responding to issues of poverty,” he said in a July 22 interview in the southern Indian city of Chennai. “It is extremely important for the world community to have an organization that remains apart from the politics and focuses on economics.”


This is a good move. I hope the EU, Japan and others get on board.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on August 14, 2014, 06:24:03
Part 1 of 2

Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Foreign Affairs is a Russian insider's look at "What Moscow Really Wants:"

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141538/alexander-lukin/what-the-kremlin-is-thinking
Quote
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What the Kremlin Is Thinking
Putin’s Vision for Eurasia

By Alexander Lukin

FROM OUR JULY/AUGUST 2014 ISSUE

Soon after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Western leaders began to think of Russia as a partner. Although Washington and its friends in Europe never considered Moscow a true ally, they assumed that Russia shared their basic domestic and foreign policy goals and would gradually come to embrace Western-style democracy at home and liberal norms abroad. That road would be bumpy, of course. But Washington and Brussels attributed Moscow’s distinctive politics to Russia’s national peculiarities and lack of experience with democracy. And they blamed the disagreements that arose over the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Iran on the short time Russia had spent under Western influence. This line of reasoning characterized what could be termed the West’s post-Soviet consensus view of Russia.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has finally put an end to this fantasy. In annexing Crimea, Moscow decisively rejected the West’s rules and in the process shattered many flawed Western assumptions about its motivations. Now U.S. and European officials need a new paradigm for how to think about Russian foreign policy -- and if they want to resolve the Ukraine crisis and prevent similar ones from occurring in the future, they need to get better at putting themselves in Moscow’s shoes.

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

From Russia’s perspective, the seeds of the Ukraine crisis were planted in the Cold War’s immediate aftermath. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the West essentially had two options: either make a serious attempt to assimilate Russia into the Western system or wrest away piece after piece of its former sphere of influence. Advocates of the first approach, including the U.S. diplomat George Kennan and Russian liberals, warned that an anti-Russian course would only provoke hostility from Moscow while accomplishing little, winning over a few small states that would end up siding with the West anyway.

But such admonitions went unheeded, and U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush chose the second path. Forgetting the promises made by Western leaders to Mikhail Gorbachev after the unification of Germany -- most notably that they would not expand NATO eastward -- the United States and its allies set out to achieve what Soviet resistance had prevented during the Cold War. They trumpeted NATO’s expansion, adding 12 new members, including former parts of the Soviet Union, while trying to convince Russia that the foreign forces newly stationed near its borders, in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, would not threaten its security. The EU, meanwhile, expanded as well, adding 16 new members of its own during the same period.

Russian leaders were caught off-guard; they had expected that both sides would increase cooperation, remain responsive to each other’s interests, and make mutually acceptable compromises. The Russians felt that they had done their part: although never entirely abandoning the idea of national interests, Russia had shown that it was willing to make sacrifices in order to join the prevailing Western-led order. Yet despite an abundance of encouraging words, the West never reciprocated. Instead, Western leaders maintained the zero-sum mindset left over from the Cold War, which they thought they’d won.

It remains hard to say whether a different approach to the post-Soviet states would have produced a better result for the West. What is obvious is that the course Clinton and Bush took empowered those Russians who wanted Moscow to reject the Western system and instead become an independent, competing center of power in the new multipolar world.

Today, the West’s continued advance is tearing apart the countries on Russia’s borders. It has already led to territorial splits in Moldova and Georgia, and Ukraine is now splintering before our very eyes. Divisive cultural boundaries cut through the hearts of these countries, such that their leaders can maintain unity only by accommodating the interests of both those citizens attracted to Europe and those wanting to maintain their traditional ties to Russia. The West’s lopsided support for pro-Western nationalists in the former Soviet republics has encouraged these states to oppress their Russian-speaking populations -- a problem to which Russia could not remain indifferent. Even now, more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, more than six percent of the population in Estonia and more than 12 percent of the population in Latvia, most of them ethnic Russians, do not have the full rights and privileges of citizenship. They cannot vote in national elections, enroll in Russian schools, or, for the most part, access Russian media. The EU, despite its emphasis on human rights outside its borders, has turned a blind eye to this clear violation of basic rights within them. So when it came to Ukraine and the threat of NATO forces appearing in Crimea -- a region for which Russia has special feelings and where most residents consider themselves Russian -- Moscow decided that there was nowhere left for such minorities to retreat. Russia annexed Crimea in response to the aspirations of a majority of its residents and to NATO’s obvious attempt to push Russia’s navy out of the Black Sea.

Western leaders were taken aback by Moscow’s swift reaction. In late March, General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, said with surprise that Russia was acting “much more like an adversary than a partner.” But given that NATO has acted that way since its founding -- and never changed its approach after the Cold War -- Moscow’s actions should have been expected. It was only a matter of time before Russia finally reacted to Western encirclement.

In this context, the government of Vladimir Putin has interpreted Western protests about the situation in Ukraine as nothing more than a case of extreme hypocrisy. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how the Kremlin could think otherwise. Consider the EU’s recent criticism of right-wing groups in Ukraine. In March, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, condemned Right Sector, a militant nationalist group, for attempting to seize the parliament building in Kiev. But the EU had effectively supported Right Sector when it took to the streets to depose the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych only months earlier. None of this is surprising, of course; Western leaders have never had any difficulty justifying the actions of such extremist groups when convenient, as when it assisted Croatians fighting in the self-proclaimed republic of Serbian Krajina in 1995 or nationalists in Kosovo in 1997–98.

Western hypocrisy doesn’t end there. Washington has regularly chastised Russia for violating the sanctity of Ukraine’s borders. Yet the United States and its allies have no leg to stand on when it comes to the principle of territorial integrity. After all, it was not Russia but the West that, in 2010, supported the ruling by the International Court of Justice that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 did not violate international law. And Moscow repeatedly warned that the precedents set by Western military interventions in such places as Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq, and Libya would undermine the existing system of international law -- including the principle of sovereignty as enshrined in the 1975 Helsinki Accords, in which the West formally acknowledged the national boundaries of the Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, and the Warsaw Pact states.

In spite of such Western double standards, Moscow has offered up a number of proposals for resolving the Ukraine crisis: the creation of a coalition government that takes into account the interests of the eastern and southern regions, the federalization of the country, the granting of official status to the Russian language, and so on. But Western ideologues seem unlikely to ever accept such proposals. Working with Russia, instead of against it, would mean admitting that someone outside the West is capable of determining what is good and what is bad for other societies.

COLLISION COURSE

Given the growing distance between Russia and the United States and Europe, it was only a matter of time before their two approaches collided in Ukraine, a border state that has long vacillated between the pull of the East and that of the West. The struggle initially played out between opposing Ukrainian political factions: one that advocated signing an association agreement with the EU and another that favored joining the customs union formed by Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia.

Western leaders have consistently viewed such Russian-led efforts at regional integration as hostile moves aimed at resurrecting the Soviet Union and creating an alternative to the Western system. Most officials in the United States and Europe thought that bringing Ukraine into alignment with the EU would deliver a heavy blow to those plans, which explains why they interpreted Yanukovych’s decision to temporarily postpone the signing of the EU agreement as a Russian victory that called for a counterattack.

Yet Western leaders are woefully misinformed about the idea of Eurasian integration. Neither Russia nor any of the states seeking to join a Eurasian system wants to restore the Soviet Union or openly confront the West. They do, however, believe that in a multipolar world, free nations have a right to create independent associations among themselves. In fact, the ruling elites of many former Soviet republics have long favored the idea of maintaining or re-creating some form of association among their states. In 1991, for example, they created the Commonwealth of Independent States. And of the 15 former Soviet republics, only a few of them, primarily the Baltic states, have used the collapse of the Soviet Union as an opportunity to permanently abandon all ties to the former union and join Western economic and political unions instead. The remaining countries struggled to arrive at a consensus on precisely what role the CIS should play.

In some former Soviet republics, leaders have actively sought to create new forms of integration, such as the Eurasian Economic Community, whose members include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan (Uzbekistan suspended its membership in 2008). In others, such as Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine, the ruling elites considered the commonwealth the primary means for obtaining a civilized divorce from Russia and dividing up the ownership rights and authorities that were previously held by a single, unified state. In most of these countries, at least part of the official establishment and a significant segment of the general population wanted to maintain close relations with Russia and the other former Soviet states. In Georgia and Moldova, for instance, various ethnic minorities feared increasingly assertive nationalist majorities and hoped that Russia would help protect their rights. In other states, including Belarus and Ukraine, significant parts of the populations had such close economic, cultural, and even familial bonds with Russia that they could not imagine a sharp break.

Yet economic problems have long stood in the way of real integration. Although Putin came to power convinced that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the twentieth century, he waited a decade -- until Russia had gained sufficient economic and political strength -- to do anything about it. It wasn’t until 2010 that Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia launched a customs union, the first real step toward meaningful economic cooperation among post-Soviet states. The union created a territory free from duties and other economic restrictions, and its members now apply common tariffs and other common regulatory measures in their trade with outside countries. Negotiations are currently under way to add Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan to the union.

In addition to providing economic benefits, Eurasian integration has fostered security cooperation. Like NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization -- which includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan -- requires signatories to help assist any member that comes under attack. Many Eurasian countries put a special value on the CSTO; their leaders know that despite assurances from many other countries and organizations, in the event of a real threat from religious extremists or terrorists, only Russia and its allies will come to the rescue.

UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE

With economic cooperation a success, political elites in the countries of the customs union are now discussing the formation of a Eurasian political union. As Putin wrote in the Russian newspaper Izvestiya in 2011, Moscow wants the new union to partner with, not rival, the EU and other regional organizations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the North American Free Trade Agreement. That would help the member states “establish [themselves] within the global economy,” Putin wrote, and “play a real role in decision-making, setting the rules and shaping the future.” For such a union to be effective, however, it will need to evolve naturally and voluntarily. Moreover, taking post-Soviet integration to a new level raises the question of what deeper values would lie at its foundation. If the countries of Europe united to champion the values of democracy, human rights, and economic cooperation, then a Eurasian union must stand for its own ideals, too.

Some political thinkers have found the ideological foundation for such a union by looking to history. The concept of a Eurasian space or identity first arose among Russian philosophers and historians who immigrated from communist Russia to western Europe in the 1920s. Like Russian Slavophiles before them, advocates of Eurasianism spoke of the special nature of Russian civilization and its differences from European society. But they gazed in a different direction: whereas earlier Slavophiles emphasized Slavic unity and contrasted European individualism with the collectivism of Russian peasant communities, the Eurasianists linked the Russian people to the Turkic-speaking peoples -- or “Turanians” -- of the Central Asian steppe. According to the Eurasianists, the Turanian civilization, which supposedly originated in ancient Persia, followed its own unique political and economic model -- essentially, authoritarianism. Although they valued private initiative in general, many of the Eurasianists condemned the excessive dominance of market principles over the state in the West and emphasized the positive role of their region’s traditional religions: Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. However dubious the Eurasianists’ historical claims about the Turanians may be, this theory now enjoys wide popularity not only among a significant part of the Russian political elite but also in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other Central Asian states where the Turanians’ descendants live.

Although the old ideas advanced by today’s Eurasianists may seem somewhat artificial, the plan to establish a Eurasian union should not be considered so far-fetched. The culture and values of many former Soviet republics really do differ from what prevails in the West. Liberal secularism, with its rejection of the absolute values that traditional religions hold as divinely ordained, may be on the rise in western Europe and the United States, but in these former Soviet republics, all the major religions -- Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism -- are experiencing a revival. Despite the significant differences between them, all these religions reject Western permissiveness and moral relativism, and not for some pragmatic reason but because they find such notions sinful -- either unsanctioned or expressly prohibited by divine authority.

Most inhabitants of these post-Soviet states also resent that people in the West consider their outlook backward and reactionary. Their religious leaders, who are enjoying increasing popularity and influence, concur. After all, one can view progress in different ways. If one believes that the meaning of human existence is to gain more political freedoms and acquire material wealth, then Western society is moving forward. But if one thinks, as a traditional Christian does, that Christ’s coming was humanity’s most important development, then material wealth looks far less important, for this life is fleeting, and suffering prepares people for eternal life, a process that physical riches hinder. Religious traditionalists see euthanasia, homosexuality, and other practices that the New Testament repeatedly condemns as representing not progress but a regression to pagan times. Viewed through this lens, Western society is more than imperfect; it is the very center of sin.

A great majority of Orthodox Christian believers in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova agree with all of this, as do many people in Central Asia. And these beliefs have propelled to power leaders who support the integration of the former Soviet republics. They have also helped Putin succeed in establishing an independent power center in Eurasia. Western meddling, meanwhile, has only served to further consolidate that power.

End of Part 1 of 2
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on August 14, 2014, 06:24:41
Part 2 of 2

Quote
MOVING FORWARD

The situation in Ukraine remains tense. It might very well follow the example of Moldova, effectively splitting in two. The United States has perceived Russian calls for dialogue as an attempt to dictate unacceptable conditions. In Russia, the continuing strife has fueled the activity of nationalists and authoritarians. The latter group has become especially active of late and is presenting itself as the only force capable of protecting Russia’s interests. An uncontrolled escalation of the confrontation could even lead to outright war. The only solution is for the United States and its allies to change their position from one of confrontation to one of constructive engagement.

After all, a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis is still possible. Even during the Cold War, Moscow and the West managed to reach agreements on the neutral status of Austria and Finland. Those understandings did not in the least undermine the democratic systems or the general European orientation of those countries, and they even proved beneficial to their economies and international reputations. It is no coincidence that it was Finland, a neutral state with strong ties to both the West and the Soviet Union, that hosted the talks leading to the signing of the Helsinki Accords, which played a major role in easing Cold War tensions. The solution to the current crisis similarly lies in providing international guarantees for both Ukraine’s neutral status and the protection of its Russian-speaking population. The alternative would be far, far worse: Ukraine could well break apart, drawing Russia and the West into another prolonged confrontation.


I think that Dr Lukin's view that we, in the US led West are, and have been since the 1990s, hypocrites is well taken. I will not comment further onthe terminally f___ing stupid decision to enlarge NATO into Russia's backyard ... except to that that it represents a low point in American strategy.


_____
     Dr Alexander Lukin is Director, Center for East Asian and Shanghai Cooperation Organization Studies at Moscow State Institue of International Relations of the MFA of Russia.

     Alexander Lukin received his first degree from Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 1984, a doctorate in politics from Oxford University in 1997 and a doctorate in history from the Russian Diplomatic Academy in 2007.
     He worked at the Soviet Foreign Ministry, Soviet Embassy to the PRC, and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

     He holds the position of Advisor to the Governor of the Moscow Region on Foreign Economic Relations and serves on the editorial board of the International Problems journal in Belgrade, Yugoslavia).

     In 2009 he was awarded by President Hu Jintao a medal for the "Outstanding Contribution to the Development of Sino-Russian Relations." The medal was awarded to sixty Russians to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment
     of the diplomatic relations between the PRC and the USSR.

     He is also a member of the Russian National Committee of The Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Lightguns on August 14, 2014, 08:34:31
I think it is hypocritical to think that Russia somehow owns the free nations that border it.  Western expansion has been lead by the elected governments of those nations, not by the NATO or EU.  Those nations have had to fullfill criteria in order for admission.  In Russia, free trade means surrendering your internal secuity and political structures to Russian control in order to receive a penance from Russia.   In the West, Free Trade means developing the institutions of democracy and anti-corruption in your own national way and seeking acceptance from the EU and NATO.  The fact is that nations WANT to become apart of Europe, while those who sign on with Russia feel like they have no other choice.

I have no doubt the gentlemen is receiving medals from Putin!
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on August 14, 2014, 09:05:05
The only criteria Bill Clinton and George W Bush sought was a "please" ...

I'm not suggesting that those "free nations" could not or should not choose their own fates. But I am suggesting asserting that there was not, in the 1990s or early 2000s, and is not now any reason to allow them, much less invite invite them into NATO. Both NATO and Russia would have benefited from a buffer zone between the two.

I think adding some, even most of .g. the Czech Republic, Estomnia, Hungary, Latvia, Lituania and Poland to the EU was a good idea and I think it would have been less provocative had they not been NATO members, too.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on August 14, 2014, 11:33:37

I think adding some, even most of .g. the Czech Republic, Estomnia, Hungary, Latvia, Lituania and Poland to the EU was a good idea and I think it would have been less provocative had they not been NATO members, too.

But how would that have played out?

The easterners are very cognizant of their geopolitical position as the new cockpit of Europe.  The Metternich solution to the last one was the independent state of Belgium - neutrality guaranteed.

For the easterners security they need/want both economic and military security.  The EU provides one, NATO the other.  The idea being that the nation can advance more quickly if it doesn't have to sink a fortune into unproductive military activity.  In the absence of NATO then you would see the Neutral states aligning and allying with each other and creating a third military unit on the continent. 

Would a third, independent, military alliance, one with a deep antipathy towards Russia and a resentful attitude towards the west (due to the manner in which the West has treated them since 1918, if not earlier, and still treats them) be in the West's or Russia's best interest?

I don't think Russia would be any happier to find themselves barricaded by an alliance of Swedes, Finns, Balts, Poles, Magyars, Czechs, Slovaks and Romanians, with or without the Ukraine.

In the meantime the West would have lost some leverage with that central alliance and more likely to find themselves responding to events  in Central Europe and less able to influence events without significant ammunition expenditure.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on August 14, 2014, 11:42:26
I understand that the "easterners ... need/want both economic and military security," but that doesn't mean that we, the West, are obliged to provide either or even that it is our interests to provide either. I think integrating the "easterners" into 'Economic Europe' was, broadly, a good idea ... I think it would have been even better had we not integrated them into our military security system.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on August 14, 2014, 12:37:45
Your point is taken and well understood.

My counter would be along the lines that even now, inside NATO, Poland in particular is actively taking measures to strengthen its own position militarily and economically.  As well they are reaching out to fellow NATO easterners to find like-minded associates.  And they are open in their desire to support Ukraine against Russia.

What odds that they might already be in Ukraine except for the "steadying hand - dead weight" of NATO?

Would it have served the EU - Old NATO any better if the fighting had spread - potentially allowing the front to move further west?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on August 14, 2014, 15:27:57
The other alternative could have been the loose association of "Partnership for Peace", such as one finds in Austria, Sweden and other nations.  They get some sort of military support (in terms of training, cooperation on international missions, etc), but remain steadfastly neutral, neither for nor against (officially) one side or the other.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: YZT580 on August 14, 2014, 19:35:55
The only criteria Bill Clinton and George W Bush sought was a "please" ...

I'm not suggesting that those "free nations" could not or should not choose their own fates. But I am suggesting asserting that there was not, in the 1990s or early 2000s, and is not now any reason to allow them, much less invite invite them into NATO. Both NATO and Russia would have benefited from a buffer zone between the two.

Gee.  Wasn't that the general idea behind the nuclear non-aggression treaty signed by Russia, GB, and others that caused Ukraine to release its nuclear weapons back to Moscow.  They signed up to be the buffer and we can all see how that worked out right?  Going to war for Ukraine may not be a smart idea but doing nothing is even dumber.  Every step Putin takes west is one step closer to a return to the 1960,s and 70's.  Buffers don't work unless that buffer is so well armed that going over or through becomes too costly an exercise.  So a friendly Ukraine that is armed to the teeth is the perfect east/west buffer.  An emasculated Ukraine (as now) becomes and now is a potential flash point to European war.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on August 14, 2014, 19:46:53
Gee.  Wasn't that the general idea behind the nuclear non-aggression treaty signed by Russia, GB, and others that caused Ukraine to release its nuclear weapons back to Moscow.  They signed up to be the buffer and we can all see how that worked out right?  Going to war for Ukraine may not be a smart idea but doing nothing is even dumber.  Every step Putin takes west is one step closer to a return to the 1960,s and 70's.  Buffers don't work unless that buffer is so well armed that going over or through becomes too costly an exercise.  So a friendly Ukraine that is armed to the teeth is the perfect east/west buffer.  An emasculated Ukraine (as now) becomes and now is a potential flash point to European war.


Ukraine is too poor, too backward, to arm itself "to the teeth" and there is no political will in the West (Germany and the USA, really) to arm it as a surrogate.

Putin is, in my opinion, welcome to return to the 1960s - it was an especially low point for Russia. I have no objection to Russia being mismanaged back to that level - and I do not believe Russia can, for at least a couple of generations, manage anything reasonably well. There is a HUGE cultural (sophistication) defecit in Russia. I'm guessing it can be overcome - primarily by Russia being less and less Russian.

I really do not see anyone, anywhere, being willing to go to war over Ukraine: Hand wringing? Yes; Fighting? No.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on August 29, 2014, 22:28:29
Worth quoting in its entirety...

Lilia Shevtsova in The American Prospect
http://www.the-american-interest.com/shevtsova/2014/08/28/putin-ends-the-interregnum/

I don't find anything to disagree with.

Quote
NEW WORLD DISORDER
Putin Ends the Interregnum
Vladimir Putin’s increasingly reckless interventions in Ukraine should force the West to reevaluate everything it thought it knew about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the past two decades of Western policy on Russia.

When the Gaza War and the threat from ISIS pulled global attention away from Ukraine, you could almost hear the sighs of relief emanating from the Western capitals: Finally, something to distract us from this Eurasian conundrum! This isn’t to say that Western leaders don’t understand that the war in Ukraine has implications for both the international order and the West’s own internal workings. By now they appreciate the stakes (or at least they ought to); they just haven’t been able to come up with an answer.

Meanwhile, Russia itself faces a conundrum of its own. By attempting to shift Russia backward to an older civilizational model, Putin has already inflicted a deep strategic defeat on his country. His efforts to turn Russia back to the “Besieged Fortress” model will only rob Russia of its chance to become a modern society. Moreover, Putin has also unleashed forces he can’t hope to contain, thus accelerating the agonizing decay of his own regime. Nevertheless, though he has lost the battle with history, Putin has been moving from one tactical victory to the next by forcing the West to constantly react and try to accommodate his reckless behavior.

Russia’s recent “humanitarian invasion” of nearly 200 trucks—which crossed the border and then returned, the Ukrainian government alleges, with stolen factory equipment—is only one of the more recent Kremlin experiments aimed at testing both the global rules of the game and Western leaders’ readiness to confront Russia. This alleged mass theft, in particular, took place just before Ukraine’s Independence day, on the eve of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Kiev and before the meeting between Putin and Poroshenko. It was an intentional slap in the face, meant to bring across a simple message: “Screw you! We don’t care what you say!”

The Kremlin has been intentionally escalating tensions in order to ready us for Putin’s attempt to assume the role of Peacemaker—albeit on his terms. Peacemaking, for the Russian leader, is merely a means to another goal: forcing the West to accept the Kremlin’s right to change the rules of the game whenever it suits its interests. Indeed this is precisely what he demonstrated at the recent meeting in Minsk between the EU, Russia, and Ukraine, where Putin stubbornly refused to admit to the Russian military’s involvement in the war in Ukraine.

What this means is that there are no concessions on the part of the West and Ukraine that can satisfy the other side. This is true not because of bellicosity or incompetence of the Russian leader; he is quite rational and competent. Rather, he understands all too well the logic of personalized power in Russia—that, at this late stage of regime decay, it requires him to keep Russia in a state of war with the outside world. The war with Ukraine has thus become an existential problem for the current Russian political regime. It can’t afford a defeat. Yesterday Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko claimed—and NATO satellite imagery appears to confirm—that Russian troops have openly invaded the Ukrainian territory, proving that the Kremlin is no longer interested in forestalling an escalation. Hell is unfolding…


Several years ago the famous Polish political philosopher and sociologist Zygmunt Bauman reintroduced into our political lexicon the term “interregnum” (a word once used by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci to describe the early 1930s). The term means “a time without a trajectory,” or “a time outside of time,” when the old is dying and the new has not yet been born or is too faint to notice. It is a treacherous time to interpret: Is it just before dawn, or just after dusk? “Interregnum” is also an apt description for the times in which the world found itself during the first decades of the 21st century: a time of ideological fuzziness, political ambivalence, and normative relativism.

Having flipped the global chessboard with his annexation of the Crimea and an undeclared war against Ukraine, Putin effectively ended the most recent period of interregnum and inaugurated a new era in global politics. However, no one yet knows what this era will bring. The global community is still reeling in shock, when it isn’t trying to pretend that nothing extraordinary has in fact occurred. This denial of the fact that the Kremlin has dealt a blow to conventional ideas, stable geopolitical constructs, and (supposedly) successful policies proceeds from the natural instinct for self-preservation. It is also quite natural that the political forces that have grown accustomed to the status quo will try to look to the past for answers to new challenges—this is precisely what those who were unprepared for a challenge always do. It was easy enough to predict that many politicians and political analysts would explain what Putin has done to the global order by using Cold War analogies. Drawing these historical parallels is potentially useful in only one respect: if they help us to see what is truly new about the current situation, and the scale of the risks involved.

The Cold War of the past century was not merely a competition of two global systems; it was also a clash of two ideologies that sought world domination. Russia, having entered a stage of decline, no longer possesses a global ideology and cannot play a role in counterbalancing the West. Nevertheless, the new containment policy initiated by the Kremlin should concern the West, since in one important respect these times differ from those of the Cold War. Back then, the opposing sides attempted to follow the rules of the game (the Cuban Missile Crisis was the sole exception that highlighted the need to play by the rules). The current confrontation with the West instigated by Putin’s Russia, however, is characterized by a new set of circumstances:

Russia and the West (primarily Europe) are economically interconnected.
There is now a massive pro-Kremlin lobbying operation within Western society. This operation engages right- and left-wing forces, as well as business elites and former politicians, in serving the Kremlin’s interests.
Unlike the Soviet Kremlin, Putin’s Kremlin is not only prepared to violate the international rules of the game; it also demands that the world recognize its right to interpret them.
Influential forces within Western society aren’t ready to acknowledge the failures of Western policy on Russia. These “accommodators,” attempting to act within the past framework of engaging Russia, view its current belligerence as a temporary phenomenon caused by local factors.
Thus, the Western proponents of the two opposing courses on Russia are quite confused now. After all, the Kremlin seeks to contain the West even as it maintains an active presence there, which prevents the West from either successfully containing or engaging Russia. Аs for the dual-track approach—that is, the combination of both containment and engagement—the West has never had success with this. The crisis of these past foreign policy models has become obvious in the case of Ukraine, where the West still struggles to find a solution that would end the Kremlin’s undeclared war. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has managed to force the West to accept the aggressor in this conflict as a peacemaker and mediator. Not only that, but it is also now trying to force the West to agree to a new status quo, without offering its own pledge to respect it.

In other words, we face a new reality in which neither Cold War schemes nor post-Cold War settlement approaches appear to work. This means that we will have to revisit a number of traditional views, including our views on the collapse of the Soviet Union—which, as we now should understand, merely served to sustain the Russian Matrix of personalized power at the cost of dismantling the old state. The same understanding applies to Yeltsin’s role: He was in fact an architect of anti-Communist authoritarianism, creating the constitutional grounds for Putin’s regime. We will have to take a fresh look at the policies the West has been advancing over the past twenty years, ranging from the European Union’s roadmaps for Russia’s inclusion in Europe to the U.S. “reset” and the EU’s “Partnership for Modernization.” We will need to ask ourselves to what extent Western policies were actually means of including Russia in Western normative space, and to what extent they merely facilitated the revival of the Russian personalized power system. Having cast aside imitations of partnership and democratization in Russia, Putin seriously damaged the reputation of Western intellectual and political communities. Just think how many analytical publications, speeches, and dissertations have now been rendered superfluous, if not just plain wrong! How many political decisions and constructs have been exposed as futile, or even deleterious to the liberal democracies! Even a short list of misguided political actions, op-eds, and academic research would offer a stunning example of a collective failure to analyze, predict, and react to the obvious.

Meanwhile, Russia’s war against Ukraine could have consequences reaching even further than those of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.Russia’s war against Ukraine could have consequences reaching even further than those of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet collapse was unexpectedly peaceful (again despite numerous predictions to the contrary). The Soviet Union just cracked and crumbled like a clay pot. This painless demise to a large extent resulted from the fact that the old and frail Soviet elite was unable to struggle for survival, and a significant number of Russians wanted change and looked up to the West. The situation is drastically different today: the Russian elite will fight tooth and nail to survive, using every means at its disposal—including, we now see, external aggression, blackmail, and the threat of undeclared war. Besides, the Russians of today, zombified by television war propaganda, fear change and view the West suspiciously. The 1991 Soviet collapse spawned a democratic euphoria and hopes for the ultimate victory of liberal democracy. Today the world finds itself in the midst of the authoritarian surge. In its final days, the Soviet Union could barely attract worldwide, let alone Western, support; Putin’s Kremlin, meanwhile, has managed to find supporters in the West all across the political spectrum—many of whom aren’t always aware of whose tune they’re dancing to. Today’s Russia is an advance combat unit of the new global authoritarianism, with China acting as its informal leader and waiting in the wings to seize its own opportunities. Indeed, by destabilizing the Western world and exposing its weaknesses, Putin is effectively doing Beijing’s dirty work.

Putin’s Kremlin challenged the West at the same time that the liberal community was losing its mission and normative dimension. This is essentially a civilizational rather than a geopolitical challenge: Apart from testing the liberal democracies’ ability to defend the global order, it is testing their ability to reintroduce the normative dimension to their foreign policies. That is exactly what Ukrainian crisis is about: Here Putin is trying to explore how strong the West’s positions are. The Kremlin isn’t fighting for the rights of Russian-speakers in Ukraine, or for greater autonomy for the east. These issues are ultimately of little significance to the Kremlin. Instead, what we have in Ukraine is a battle waged by a declining but ever more desperately aggressive authoritarianism against a hostile civilization. And today’s Russian elite will not leave the battlefield voluntarily, as the impotent Soviet leaders once did. After the Kremlin turned Ukraine into an internal political factor, and turned containment of the West in Ukraine into a tool for mobilizing Russians around their leader, it cut off its avenues for retreat. Retreat would lead to a loss of power and control over the country, which under current Kremlin conditions, would be tantamount to suicide (and not just the political variety). Putin’s retreat would spell defeat for global authoritarianism. Therefore, we can expect that Beijing will lend Moscow a helping hand where possible. (Beijing will also force Moscow to pay for this help—the recent Russia-China gas contract, which exclusively caters to Chinese interests, is a clear illustration of what’s to come).

To be sure, it’s possible to reach the same diagnosis I have here and nevertheless draw precisely the opposite conclusions: “We should accommodate Russia. Ukraine is a failed state no matter what we do. Let the Russians have this twilight zone.” So say those who believe that it is still possible to fall back to the familiar “Let’s Pretend!” game of the past. Even those who understand that the world now faces a much more formidable challenge calling for new and far reaching solutions still haven’t fully grasped the meaning of the new reality unfolding before our eyes.

Ironically, the 1991 Soviet collapse did not guarantee the gradual rise of liberal civilization. We are witnessing its crisis twenty years later. Perhaps, the West needs rivals like the former Soviet Union to sustain itself and remain true to form. The West needs to return to its mission and core values in order to respond to Putin’s Russia, but doing so calls for taking stock of the mistakes and dashed hopes of the past. It requires an overhaul of long-standing and ostensibly immutable institutions and principles, including: the European security system (particularly as it pertains to energy security); issues involving democratic transitions, war and peace, and global government and responsibility; and the role of the normative dimension in foreign policy.

What a mess Putin has gotten us all into! But let’s also give him his due: He has paved the way for the emergence of new trends—or at least he’s called the existing ones into serious question. He has also facilitated the formation of Ukrainian national identity, ensuring that the country will never again become a mere extension of Russia. He has thus undermined his own dream—that of creating the Eurasian Union. He has precipitated a crisis in his own country, making its future path completely unpredictable. And finally, he has reminded NATO of its mission and prompted the liberal democracies to reflect on their own principles.

Now, it is entirely up to the West. The liberal democracies may choose to return to their foundations. If not, the accommodators—those who hope for a return to the old “Let’s pretend!” game—will win. If they do, this will give a green light to the Authoritarian Internationale, signaling that the West is weak and can be trampled underfoot.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on September 01, 2014, 19:42:24
....

But, Putin is leaving himself a number of options.

The Kazakhs may well be in his sights next.
http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/kazakhs-worried-after-putin-questions-history-of-country-s-independence/506178.html

Kazakhstan would be a softer target than Ukraine.  Less Western interference likely.  The Chinese position would be interesting to see.
And there have been some interesting issues with Russia moving missiles into the border area with Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan shutting down Baikonur, failed missile launches dropping debris on Kazakh villages.

Further to Kazakhstan and Vlad's comments.

President of Kazakhstan opens the possibility of withdrawing from Vlad's Eurasian Union if its independence is threatened.

Quote
Kazakhstan may leave EEU if its interests are infringed: Nazarbayev

Wednesday, 27.08.2014, 22:44
 
Kazakhstan has a right to withdraw from the Eurasian Economic Union if its interests are infringed, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev reminded in an interview to Khabar TV Channel.

"If the rules set forth in the agreement are not followed, Kazakhstan has a right to withdraw from the Eurasian Economic Union. I have said this before and I am saying this again. Kazakhstan will not be part of organizations that pose a threat to our independence. Our independence is our dearest treasure, which our grandfathers fought for. First of all, we will never surrender it to someone, and secondly, we will do our best to protect it," the President said


http://en.tengrinews.kz/politics_sub/Kazakhstan-may-leave-EEU-if-its-interests-are-infringed-Nazarbayev-255722/
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on September 02, 2014, 16:54:36
Vlad has placed his Iskanders in three locations of interest.

Kaliningrad, Krasnodar (in the Kuban adjacent to Ukraine and "Caucasus Emirate") and outside Orenburg facing Kazakhstan and at the pass around the south end of the Urals that connects Siberia to European Russia


Quote
Kaliningrad’s Drift toward Europe Shows What Happens to Russians Cut Off from Russia, Nationalist Commentator Says

Paul Goble May 15, 2014
Print Friendly
Staunton, May 15 – Separatist and pro-German sentiment among ethnic Russians in Kaliningrad reflects not only German revanchist efforts but the threat of “the alienation of young from the Russian world” if they are “cut off” for a lengthy period from Russia and if Moscow acts as if “’there are no problems’” with such people, according to a Russian nationalist writer.

In an essay on Stoletie.ru entitled “Crimea has Returned but Will Kaliningrad Leave?” Vladimir Shulgin argues that “the events in Ukraine obviously showed what will happen with a people who for a long time are intentionally separated from their true Russian name, spirituality and customs.”

The Russian nationalist’s words underscore something that Moscow is loath to admit and that helps to explain some of the hysteria behind the Kremlin’s words and actions: Russian identity is far less strong than Russians would like the world to believe, and Russians in the non-Russian countries are different from and even antagonistic to Russians in the Russian Federation.

Shulgin begins his article by asking directly “Why has our Baltic Shore suddenly been seized by an obsession with all things Koenigsberg?” Why are people in what he describes as “a typical Russian region, where [the members of that ethnic community form an enormous majority of the population saying and doing such pro-German things?

“What,” in short he asks, “does all this mean?”

In part, Shulgin says, it reflects the actions of German writers and bloggers who promote the idea of the restoration of a German Koenigsberg and who are able to win over marginal elements who carry German flags and march around. But this “separatist” movementreally “exist only in their imagination.”

German commentators call any manifestation in Kaliningrad an indication of the appearance of “die Deutsch-Russen” (German-Russians) and encourage Germans in Germany to support them. Indeed, the message to the latter may be more important than the former: Germans need to be Germans and not Europeans or Atlanticists.

But if the Koenigsberg movement is not as strong as some German writers suggest, it does exist and has a basis for doing so, Shulgin writes. And there is the chance that the movement’s activists may succeed in organizing a referendum in support of some if not all of their goals.

That is because the Russian community of Kaliningrad is largely cut off from Moscow and has begun to articulate narrow regionalist goals: autonomy from the central government, the right of return of Germans who were forced out, and the renaming of cities, towns and streets to reflect their original German titles.

Another reason they may succeed, the Russian commentator says, is that in the face of German propaganda and the lack of well-articulated national sensibilities among the Russians in Kaliningrad, “local politicians in essence do not interfere with the separatist mobilization of public opinion.”

Shulgin’s article does not mean that he believes Kaliningrad is going to become independent as “the fourth Baltic state” as some have predicted or transfer from Russian to German sovereignty, but it clearly does mean that he and others in Moscow fear that Russian identity there is weaker than they would like it to be and that measures must be taken.

http://www.interpretermag.com/kaliningrads-drift-toward-europe-shows-what-happens-to-russians-cut-off-from-russia-nationalist-commentator-says/

Quote
‘Siberian Federalization’ Idea Spreads to Kaliningrad and Kuban

Paul Goble August 13, 2014
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Staunton, August 13 – Despite Moscow’s apparently successful efforts to block a march in Novosibirsk this Sunday, the Russian authorities have failed to prevent the ideas behind it from spreading not only to other Siberian cities like Yekaterinburg but also and more seriously to Kaliningrad and Kuban.

Feliks Rivkin, an activist in Yekaterinburg, says that he will be leading a demonstration in his city for the same thing the Novosibirsk activists want: to force Moscow to live up to the Russian constitution and give Russian regions their federal rights. Even if the authorities refuse, he adds, his group plans to go ahead anyway.

Meanwhile, in Kaliningrad, local activists are picking up on the same ideas. One Moscow commentator, Vladimir Titov, argues that Kaliningraders don’t have all the bases for launching an independence movement, but he suggests that “the single place in Russia where at present regionalism as a political direction has real prospects” is precisely there.

Kaliningrad’s non-contiguous location, its closeness to European Union countries, and the fact that 25 percent of its residents have Shengen visas and 60 percent have foreign passports all have the effect of making ever more Kaliningraders look toward Europe rather than toward Russia proper.

Well-off Kaliningraders are buying property in the EU, they are sending their children to study in Lithuania, Poland and Germany, and “young Kaliningraders already find it difficult to name the main Russian cities, including in such lists Klaipeda, Riga, Poznan, Rostok and Lubeck.

“This isn’t surprising,” Titov says. “Warsaw and Yurmala for these young people are closer and more familiar than Kaluga or Khabarovsk.” And their elders also reflect this sense of place: They speak about conditions “among them, in Russia” in much the same way they would talk about any other foreign country.

Increasingly too, he continues, Kaliningraders refer to their land not as Kaliningrad oblast but as the Amber kray and to their capital as Koenigsberg or more familiarly Koenig. That doesn’t please the authorities or “professional patriots” but it is the way things are. None of this means they want independence, but they seek real federalization and see this as their time.

Making concessions to Kaliningrad’s special situation seems entirely reasonable, Titov says, but “then a question arises: “If Kaliningrad can, why can’t Siberia? And just who is to say that it can’t?”

But interest in federalization is not limited to Siberia and Kaliningrad. There are regionalist movements in Karelia, Ingermanland, Novgorod and elsewhere, and they have now been joined by a new one: in Kuban. Activists there have announced plans to hold a march for the federalization of Kuban on August 17 to demand a separate republic be established for them.

Regional officials in Krasnodar have already refused to give them permission, but organizers say that they will go ahead anyway, citing their Constitutional right to freedom of assembly in order to demand their Constitutional rights for federalism.

From Moscow’s perspective, this is all very disturbing. Not only does it suggest that the center is losing control over the situation in at least some regions, but it raises the spectre of regional separatism of the kind that spread through the Russian Federation in the early 1990s and that Vladimir Putin has worked hard to suppress.

Moreover, it raises questions about the dangers Moscow has brought on itself by its promotion of “federalism for export” in the case of Ukraine, especially since what Moscow has been seeking there is not devolution of powers from Kyiv but in fact separatism and a change of state borders.

In a commentary on Politcom.ru, Konstantin Yemelyanov notes that the organizers of these actions “undoubtedly are trying to use the Kremlin’s weapon against it: not long ago, for example, the theme of the federalization of Ukraine was the public basis of Russian policy toward a neighboring country, and the Russian foreign ministry highlighted all the benefits” of such arrangements.

“A political provocation which formally does not contradict Russian law but hits the weak places of Russian public policy is becoming one of the types of political participation and self-expression for the opposition.” Given the memories of those now in power about 1991, that is a truly frightening “spectre.”

http://www.interpretermag.com/siberian-federalization-idea-spreads-to-kaliningrad-and-kuban/


So Vlad has got an independent Ukraine actively leaving his orbit, an independent Kazakhstan threatening to leave his orbit, active separatists in Siberia, Kaliningrad-Koenigsberg, on the north slopes of the Caucasus (Caucasus Emirate) and most importantly in the Kuban - from where he is mounting battlegroup incursions into Ukraine.  He also has a number of other places with restive populations - including Tatarstan - and now he has just bought himself more problems by annexing Crimea with its indigenous Tatars.

Which brings us to this:

Quote
Crimea Vote Galvanizes Separatists in Russia
By Yekaterina KravtsovaMar. 14 2014 00:00 Last edited 21:10

David Mdzinarishvili / Reuters
Ukrainian soldiers talking to armed men in Perevalnoye on Thursday.
For separatist groups in Dagestan, Tatarstan and other regions of Russia, the Kremlin's support of a referendum on independence in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula would seem to provide an opportunity for their own movements, which have long been repressed by Russian authorities.

The Kremlin, evidently, does not agree. President Vladimir Putin has long been a vocal opponent of regional separatist movements in Russia, having risen to power by waging a bloody war against rebels in Chechnya, and last year he signed into law a bill that stipulates prison time for those who make separatist appeals.

Ruling party lawmakers hold a similar position, arguing that the situation in Crimea is fundamentally different from that in the North Caucasus and in multiethnic republics of Russia that have active separatist movements.

But some observers believe that in the long term, the Kremlin will not be able to restrain the activity of separatist movements across Russia if it supports measures like the Crimea referendum.

"Russia must never support any referendums [on independence]," opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny wrote Wednesday on his popular LiveJournal blog. "The economy will become weak and we will not be able to give wagons of money to [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov anymore. This will happen sooner or later."

"No one doubts that he will immediately organize a referendum on independence. There are no Russians there anymore, the result is clear," Navalny warned.

Chechnya and Dagestan are seen as the main centers of separatism in Russia, but there are also separatist movements in regions including Tatarstan, Tuva, Bashkortostan, Sakha, and even regions where the majority of the population is Russian, such as exclave Kaliningrad and the Primorsky region in the Far East.

In recent years, the Kremlin has initiated a policy of settling Russians from former Soviet republics in these regions, giving them Russian citizenship immediately and a place to live. Less than a decade ago, an ethnic Russian moving from a former Soviet country was required to live for five years in Russia to qualify for citizenship.

At the same time, Russia adheres to a tough policy of suppressing separatist movements. In Chechnya, Putin installed Kadyrov, the son of a former rebel who is now fiercely loyal to the Kremlin, and annually allocates millions of dollars to the republic partly in exchange for Kadyrov's efforts to quash separatist violence there.

Russia conducted two wars against Chechen separatists following the Soviet collapse. In 1991, Chechnya was declared an independent state by a leader of one of its nationalist movements, Dzhokhar Dudayev, who later became its president. It remained de facto independent until Russian troops invaded in 1994.

Troops were withdrawn in 1996 after thousands of casualties on each side, and a decision about Chechnya's status was postponed until 2001. The second war, which officially was a counter-terrorist operation, was held from 1999 until 2009, with combat operations lasting until 2001. According to official statistics, up to 160,000 people died during the two wars.

Putin typically reacts aggressively to any calls for self-determination in regions of Russia, even when such appeals appear to represent no real threat.

In October, when university professor Sergei Medvedev said he believed the Arctic should be under international control in order to prevent damage to the environment, Putin called him a "fool" and said his position was "anti-national and unpatriotic."

And late last year, Putin signed into law a measure that stipulates prison time for those who call for independence from the Kremlin. The authorities said the law would prevent the rise of possible separatist tendencies and actions that may lead to Russian regions becoming parts of other countries.

Given Putin's position on the issue, groups in Russia seeking independence for their regions see the Kremlin's support of Crimea splitting from Ukraine as highly hypocritical.

"[We] condemn Russia's ongoing double-standard policy in international and home affairs," separatist group the All-Tatar Civic Center said in a statement posted online earlier this month. "It supports any pro-Moscow national movements in former Soviet republics with all [possible] means … while on its own territory conducts a policy of brutal Christianization and Russification of enslaved peoples, with those who oppose such policy being unjustly prosecuted."

In 1992, Tatarstan held a referendum on independence and 61 percent voted for Tatarstan to be an independent country, but Russia refused to acknowledge the results of the vote.

Kremlin-loyal lawmakers and observers argued that Russia's support of the Crimea referendum was not hypocritical due to crucial differences between the Ukrainian region and Russian republics.

Robert Shlegel, a State Duma deputy from the ruling United Russia party, said the referendum in Crimea would be different from separatist initiatives in Russia because Ukraine was "in a state of anarchy."

"Moreover, Crimea is not a Russian region right now, so separatism movements in Russian regions will not take it as a sign that they can also have a referendum on independence," he said by phone. "That is why in this particular political situation holding a referendum in Crimea is a logical decision."

Another United Russia deputy, Dagestan native Gadzhimet Sarafaliyev, said he believed the Crimea referendum was legal because the peninsula was historically Russian and it was a mistake to have given it to Ukraine in the first place.

"We are talking about helping Crimea here," he said by phone. "We do not have any geopolitical interests — Crimea has always been Russian and it must be Russian again."

He said he was not concerned that the referendum might trigger an escalation of separatist movements in the turbulent Dagestan republic. "How can we talk about an escalation of something that does not exist? Dagestan is the most adapted to Russian society of all regions — there has never been any talk about it becoming a separate country."

The majority of Dagestan's population is ethnically non-Russian, with some 26 different nationalities living there, and an Islamic separatist movement is active in the republic, although the movement's adherents typically call for the creation of an independent state that would include territories from other North Caucasus republics.

Meanwhile, Russia's state-controlled media compares the Crimean referendum with upcoming referendums in Britain's Scotland and Spain's Catalonia and refers to Western support of Kosovo's separation from Serbia in 2008.

Alexei Makarkin, a deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies, a Moscow-based think tank, said that Russia has a clear division into "us and them," allowing everything for "us" and nothing for "them."

Makarkin's point was demonstrated by Safaraliyev, who insisted that Turkey must have only cultural and humanitarian cooperation with Tatars in Crimea and must not interfere in Ukraine's affairs, since it was a NATO member.

According to pro-Kremlin pundit Alexei Mukhin, who heads the Center for Political Information think tank, the Kremlin decided to support the Crimea referendum because it realized it would not inspire separatist sentiments in Russia, since all separatist movements in Russia are under the tight control of regional authorities.

But he argued that the Kremlin's support of the referendum was no more than a bluff in order to "bring to life Ukraine's political system that is stuck in mess and mayhem."

"When the Federation Council approved the president's decision to send troops to Ukraine, everyone thought war had already begun, which was not true. The same thing holds here — support of the referendum does not mean that the Crimea is already a part of Russia," Mukhin said, adding that Russia would act within the confines of international law in any case.

But Makarkin said he believed there is no logic in the Kremlin's move and that in the long term it could motivate independence movements in certain Russian regions.

"Now separatist movements fear the central authorities, who can easily destroy them, but many of them will definitely think, 'Why can't we have such a referendum?'" he said. "The Kremlin has no other answer besides, 'You cannot because it is prohibited.'"

Makarkin said that the process of fanning separatist sentiments was closely tied with the country's economic situation. "When the economy is weak, separatist movements get an additional argument for their activity," he said.

All those interviewed by The Moscow Times agreed that Russia would need to allocate significant funds to Crimea if it became part of Russia, making Russia's policy similar to that in Chechnya.

"The difference is that even though Chechnya was in an extremely disastrous state after two wars, Russia allocated money there at a time when there was economic growth in the county," Makarkin said.

"But now it would be difficult for the Kremlin both to give money to Crimea and to keep all its social promises, especially if sanctions against Russia come into effect."

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/crimea-vote-galvanizes-separatists-in-russia/496142.html
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on September 02, 2014, 17:14:09

for Russia the only down side is that China will, possibly, become its main customer - consider Canada and the USA and oil for an example of what's wrong with that relationship.

ERC,

Didn't you say at another thread that while the EU may tolerate Russia shutting off the gas, China will not?

Source: Yahoo Finance (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/russia-breaks-ground-gas-pipeline-china-175243124.html)

And the oil pipeline goes ahead:

Quote
Russia breaks ground on new gas pipeline to China

Russia launched construction Monday of a 770 billion ruble ($20.8 bn) gas pipeline that will help bring gas from the far east of the country to China.

"We are today starting the biggest construction project in the world," President Vladimir Putin said at the ceremonial joining of the first sections of the 3,968-kilometre (2,466-mile) Siberian Strength pipeline outside the eastern Siberian city of Yakutsk.

China's Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, who was also in attendance at the ceremony, said he hoped the pipeline would be completed within four years.

"China already plans in the first half of next year to start building the Chinese section of the pipeline and we should make an effort to complete construction and begin exploitation of the pipeline in 2018," he said.

In May the two countries signed a 30-year deal which will eventually see Russia supplying China with 38 billion cubic metres of gas per year, an agreement worth some $400 billion.

The pipeline, which will have a total capacity of 61 billion cubic metres per year, will also link the gas fields in Yakustsk and Irkustsk to cities across the Russian far east.

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 05, 2014, 08:39:13
In this article, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from that newspaper, The Economist warns Western leaders that a "longer and broader confrontation with Russia ... lies ahead:"

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21615582-sad-reality-vladimir-putin-winning-ukraine-west-must-steel-itself
Quote
(http://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/the-economist-logo.gif)
Ukraine, Russia and the West
The long game
The sad reality is that Vladimir Putin is winning in Ukraine. The West must steel itself for a lengthy struggle

Sep 6th 2014 | From the print edition

IN HIS undeclared, unprovoked, grisly war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin enjoys several telling advantages. Unlike the bickering Western leaders who have failed to deter him, he is answerable only to himself. He has no real allies, and, because he silences his critics as ruthlessly as he violates his neighbours’ sovereignty, few domestic constraints. Nor, plainly, is he constrained by shame: witness his staggering lies over Russia’s role in the fighting, and his decision, even after flight MH17 was shot down by his proxies, to send in more tanks and troops.

Above all, Mr Putin cares more about the outcome than the West does. His geopolitical paranoia, his obsession with the territory lost at the end of the cold war, and the personal prestige he has staked on victory make it essential. And he has a modern army he is willing to use. Because of these imbalances Mr Putin is winning, at least by his own warped calculus. Yet in doing so he has forfeited another edge that he held until too recently, namely the willingness of some Western dupes to see him as a reasonable interlocutor, even a partner. Even the most purblind now know him for what he is: less a statesman than a brigand, not a partner but a foe.

That overdue clarity should guide the West in the ongoing struggle for Ukraine. And it should prepare its leaders for the longer and broader confrontation with Russia that lies ahead, which may stretch all round its borders.

The fog of hybrid war
Hopes of a ceasefire in Ukraine this week were undermined by Mr Putin’s ludicrous insistence that Russia is not a belligerent. But as things stand, any truce will be on his terms. Since regular Russian forces helped the ragtag separatists to turn back Ukraine’s army in devastating style (see article), Ukrainian generals are less concerned with defeating the rebels than resisting a full-scale Russian invasion; Mr Putin’s thuggish boast that he could “take Kiev in two weeks” is dreadfully plausible. Most likely his plan remains a federal Ukraine, with an eastern region controlled by Moscow, or, failing that, a simmering, low-intensity conflict. Either arrangement would wreck Ukraine’s dream of integrating with the European Union and NATO.

Even the whiff of peace will encourage some Europeans to argue that Mr Putin need not be punished further—just as there were some who used his denials of involvement as a pretext to equivocate. That would be an inexcusable mistake. As Angela Merkel says, Russia cannot simply be allowed to invade its neighbours and shift Europe’s borders with impunity. The measures under discussion in Washington and Brussels should be much tougher than previous sanctions, including the limp reaction to the annexation of Crimea. Every member of Russian’s craven parliament, security services and government should face visa bans and asset freezes. The offshore assets of top Russian kleptocrats should be identified and seized. Russia’s energy and defence sectors must be squeezed and its sovereign bonds should be shunned: Western lenders should not finance Mr Putin’s warmongering.

One aim of all this should be to bolster Ukraine’s hand in the negotiations that, sooner or later, it will probably have to enter. (More generous financial aid, to save its free-falling economy and help pay its energy bills, is needed too.) The other aim is to put pressure on Mr Putin. The propaganda pumped out by Kremlin-run television has maintained Russians’ support both for the war and for him; but as the rouble falls, capital flees Moscow and the body bags of Russian soldiers covertly return, his political problems will mount. And even if Western punishment fails to modify his behaviour in the short term, the underlying goal should be to tame him (and perhaps his successors) in the future, for Ukraine is plainly not the end.

Kiev and beyond
Mr Putin’s first choice was to suborn Ukraine without invading it, but by demonstrating his willingness to use force, he has sown fear—and, for Mr Putin, fear is the basic currency of politics. A puny, divided response has emasculated the West, which he thinks is bent on weakening and encircling Russia. For him, Russia’s post-Soviet history has been a catalogue of American-inflicted humiliation, which it is his mission to reverse. He wants his neighbours to be weak more than he wants Russians to be prosperous; he prefers vassals to allies.

This world view—a noxious compound of KGB cynicism and increasingly messianic Russian nationalism—propelled him into Ukraine. The idea that his adventurism will end in the Donbas is as naive as the theory that he would be satisfied when his troops wrenched Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia in 2008. This week Mr Putin rattled his sabre at Kazakhstan, still ruled by the elderly Nursultan Nazarbayev: any succession squabble would be an opportunity. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, small, ex-Soviet countries, have Russian-speaking minorities of the kind Mr Putin has undertaken to “protect”. These Baltic states joined NATO in 2004. But what if a Russian-financed separatist movement sprang up, a Baltic government claimed this amounted to an invasion and its NATO allies refused to help? The alliance’s bedrock—its commitment to mutual self-defence—would be shattered.

Mr Putin’s revanchism must therefore be stopped in Ukraine. This week, en route to a NATO summit in Wales, Mr Obama visited Estonia to assure his Baltic allies of America’s backing. A brigade of American soldiers would be more reassuring still. NATO is set to approve a nimbler reaction force, with kit pre-positioned in Poland. But it is past time for the alliance to junk the undertaking it gave Russia not to base troops in the Baltics: that was made in an era of goodwill, which Mr Putin has trampled. The Europeans must do more to wean themselves from Russian gas, by diversifying supplies and introducing new rules and infrastructure to trade energy across the continent. Mr Putin is not a good commercial partner.

Eventually these measures may together force Mr Putin to rethink his recklessness, or encourage the Russian people and elite to think differently about him. There will be a price for the West too, of course. But as poor, benighted Ukraine shows, the price of inaction has always been higher.


It appears, to me anyway, that The Economist is right:

     1. Putin/Russia has 'won' in Ukraine; and

     2. Putin/Russia is far, far more like Stalin/USSR than like Gorbachev/USSR, we cannot, as Mrs Thatcher so famously put it, "do business together" with Putin/Russia.

My prescription, which will cause some (even considerable) economic pain to many Western, including Canadian, companies, is: isolation and containment, and containment must be accompanied by a real, credible threat of rollback, as it was in the 1950s and '60s. (Stalin knew that Truman and Eisenhower were ready and able to fight to stop and "roll back" Russian aggression, Malenkov, Bulganin and Kruschev all worried that Kennedy and even Lyndon Johnson would do the same ... Russian certainty about American certainty began to wane in the mid to late 1960s when it became increasingly apparent that the US was not ready to prosecute a "long, long war."*) Isolation[ involves kicking Putin/Russia out of e.g. the G20 and the OECD: "no truck or trade with the Ruskies," if I may update a 1911 (Canadian) campaign slogan.


_____
* (http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1302387885l/11051965.jpg)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on September 05, 2014, 14:39:43
Meanwhile, on the Baltic borders (http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ukraine-crisis-estonia-intelligence-officer-kidnapped-gunpoint-taken-russia-1464196) ....
Quote
An Estonian intelligence officer has been kidnapped at gunpoint and taken into Russia, according to local Estonian reports.

Estonian intelligence confirmed that the incident occurred at the Luhamaa border checkpoint while the officer was investigating an incident of cross border crime, according to The Baltic Times.

"Unidentified persons coming from Russia took the freedom of an officer of Estonian Scurity police officer on the territory of Estonia," Estonia's state prosecutor's office announced. "The officer was taken to Russia using physical force and at gunpoint."

In retaliation, Estonia's Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian Ambassador to Estonia, Juri Merzljakov, in relation to the incident ....


The Russian version (http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/748380):
Quote
An officer of the Estonian security police was detained on Friday on the territory of Russia’s north-western Pskov region while he was conducting an undercover operation, the public relations center of the Federal Security Service told ITAR-TASS.

“A citizen of Estonia, Eston Kohver, who is an officer of the Estonian security police bureau, was detained on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the press center said. “He had a Taurus handgun, an amount of €5,000 in cash, equipment for covert audio recording, and materials indicative of an intelligence mission."

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MCG on September 06, 2014, 20:11:12
Russia is now accused of launching a small operation into Estonia.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/nato-faces-1st-test-as-estonia-accuses-russia-of-abduction-1.2757254
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on September 09, 2014, 09:03:40
Meanwhile, if you're a Lithuanian who opted out of serving in the Soviet Army after The Wall came down, watch out (http://en.delfi.lt/lithuania/foreign-affairs/russia-reopens-criminal-cases-against-lithuanians-who-refused-to-serve-in-soviet-army.d?id=65776132) ....
Quote
Russia has reopened 25-year-old cases that may lead to criminal charges against young people who refused to serve in the Soviet army in 1990-1991, shows a request for legal assistance received by the Lithuanian Prosecutor General's Office.

"We have received such request for legal assistance. As the activities, which Russia lists among criminal deeds, is not criminalized in Lithuania, the request for legal assistance will not be processed," Vilma Mažonė of the Prosecutor General's Office told BNS.

The Prosecutor General's Office refused to reveal further details of the case.

Russia may bring criminal charges against the citizens of Lithuania who left the Soviet army or refused to serve there after Lithuania declared independence on 11 March 1990.

Some of the young men were abducted and transported to Soviet army units by force, some were sent to jail, a few died during persecution by Soviet army officers, while others returned to the Soviet military units in fears for their own or their family's safety, some escaped the Soviet army by hiding.

According to data provided by the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence, 1,562 young people refused forced service in the Soviet army after 11 March 1990. Of them, 67 were taken to Soviet military units by force, 20 were sentenced to jail terms, three faced criminal charges and three died.

Another 1,465 were forced to go into hiding, change their place of residence and leave families to avoid forced service or repressions by the Soviet army or the Soviet authorities ....
Stay classy, Soviet Union Russia ....
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on September 09, 2014, 13:11:30
Just in case you were wondering, it's back on...

(http://static.marketintelligencecenter.com/img/MIC/2014/14-03/New_cold_war.jpg)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on September 09, 2014, 13:15:47
Just in case you were wondering, it's back on...

(http://static.marketintelligencecenter.com/img/MIC/2014/14-03/New_cold_war.jpg)
Back, by (un)popular demand, War, Cold, C1-A1, for the use of ....
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Good2Golf on September 09, 2014, 19:29:39
...wouldn't it be: War, Cold, C1-A2?   ;)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on September 09, 2014, 20:55:31
...wouldn't it be: War, Cold, C1-A2?   ;)
Good point.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on September 15, 2014, 20:17:04
The ongoing crisis in Ukraine actually brings a sense of deja vu to Estonians about their own history:

Military.com (http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/09/15/estonian-commander-says-russia-wants-a-europe-without-america.html?comp=1199444235793&rank=3)

Quote
Estonian Commander Says Russia Wants a Europe Without America

Sep 15, 2014 | by Matthew Cox
Estonia may be one of NATO's smallest members, but its air force commander had the strongest words for Russian aggression in Ukraine at a gathering of allied military leaders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's "war against Ukraine did not really come as a surprised to us," Col. Jaak Tarien, commander of the Estonian Air Force, told an audience at the U.S. Air Force Association's 2014 Air and Space Conference.

Speaking with a group of NATO military leaders, Tarien reminded how Soviet Russia launched a similar operation in Estonia in 1924.

"Soviet Russia sent infiltrators to our young republic. They tried to rally local people to demonstrate against our government," he said.
The Estonian people did not want to go along.


(...EDITED)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on September 19, 2014, 22:05:29
Oh the games people play.

Looking more and more like we're going back to the Cold War.

Laissez les bonne temps rouler! ;D

Yep, seems the Russians are into the spirit of throwback Thursday.

Canadian fighter jets intercept Russian bombers in Arctic

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/canadian-fighter-jets-intercept-russian-bombers-in-arctic-1.2772440

Quote
Fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers flying on the perimeter of Canada’s Arctic airspace in the early morning hours Thursday, NORAD revealed to CBC News.

Two CF-18s met the Tupolev Tu-95 long-range bombers, commonly referred to as "Russian Bears," at around 1:30 a.m. PT as they flew a course in “the western reaches” of Canada’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the Beaufort Sea, said Maj. Beth Smith, spokeswoman for North American Aerospace Defence Command.

The ADIZ extends approximately 320 kilometres from Canada’s coastlines, a distance far beyond the 22 kilometres, or 12 nautical miles, from the coast that define a nation’s sovereign airspace. Smith made it clear that the Russian bombers never entered Canada’s sovereign airspace.

The encounter comes one day after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko delivered a speech in Parliament thanking Canada for its ongoing support as his country’s forces battle with pro-Russian separatist rebels.

“This is disturbing. We’ve heard stories like in the past, of Russian bombers challenging Canadian airspace,” said James Bezan, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of National Defence and a Conservative MP from Manitoba.

“This plays into the narrative of a Putin regime that’s more aggressive not just in Crimea, not just in Ukraine, but indeed testing their neighbour in their entire region," he said.

About six hours before the CF-18s intercepted the Russian bombers, American F-22 fighter jets were scrambled from a base in Alaska to meet a group of Russian aircraft, including two refuelling tankers, two MiG-31 fighters and two long-range bombers.

After the U.S. jets made contact, the group headed west back towards Russian airspace.

“We’re seeing increased aggressive actions being taken by the Russian Federation,” Bezan said during an interview on CBC’s Power & Politics.

Despite the ongoing tensions between Western allies and Russia, it is not the first time Canadian and U.S. aircraft have intercepted Russian bombers seemingly flying towards toward sovereign airspace.

According to Smith, NORAD has dispatched fighter jets to make contact with Russian long-range bombers “in excess of 50 times” in the last five years.

Canadian jets intercepted the same type of long-range bombers off the coast of Newfoundland in 2010. After that incident, Peter MacKay, then minister of defence, told CBC News that Canadian military aircraft intercept between 12 and 18 Russian bombers annually.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on September 19, 2014, 22:59:18
Putin is really trying to restart the Cold War apparently. Or he's just bat poop crazy.

Russia Plans Break From Global Web as U.S. Rift Deepens

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-19/russia-seeks-to-safeguard-itself-from-u-s-internet-regulation.html

Quote
Russia plans next week to discuss contingency measures to cut the country off from the global Internet in what the Kremlin called a necessary step to shield the nation from the U.S.-controlled worldwide Web.

Russia’s state security council will examine ways to ensure domestic users can be redirected to servers inside the country rather than relying on the U.S.-managed Internet domain-names system, the Moscow-based Coordination Center for .RU domain said by e-mail today.

“We need to defend ourselves from the U.S. and Europe,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said by phone today. “This is not about isolating ourselves, it’s about getting ready for possible cut-offs as countries that regulate the Web may act unpredictably.”

Russia, on the brink of recession after U.S. and European Union sanctions provoked by the worst geopolitical rift since the Cold War over Ukraine, has been tightening control of the Internet this year. Putin, a former KGB colonel who’s centralized power since he became president in 2000, has called the Internet a creation of U.S. spy agencies.

“The Kremlin has already crushed all real opposition and taken over control of nearly all media that tried to remain independent,” Gennady Gudkov, a former opposition lawmaker, said on his blog. “Criticism of the authorities is now an almost exclusive preserve of the Internet.”

Autonomous Access

Russia may urge its telecommunication operators to adjust their equipment to enable access to the Russian Internet autonomously in case of war or mass protests, the daily newspaper Vedomosti reported today.

The press offices of Yandex NV, Mail.ru Group Ltd, OAO Mobile TeleSystems, OAO MegaFon and VimpelCom Ltd (VIP) declined to comment. Yandex declined 1.3 percent and MegaFon 0.6 percent in Moscow as of 5:10 p.m. in Moscow. VimpelCom lost 0.8 percent in New York.

The entire global system of Internet domain names and IP addresses is managed by the Los Angeles-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

Putting a block on the worldwide Internet doesn’t present technical challenges and is only a matter of political will, said Anton Nosik, a well-known blogger in Russia.

“It’s clear that moving Russia onto a North Korean model of Internet management will have far-reaching consequences for the economy,” he said on his blog. “But the overall trend of the government seeking to restrict the exchange of information and access to the Web is clear.”

Internet Crackdown

Russia last month banned anonymous access to the Internet in public spaces and expanded the regulation of media to the blogosphere, requiring those with at least 3,000 daily readers to register their real names and contact information. In February the authorities had passed a law allowing them to close webpages without a court decision if material is deemed “extremist.”

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who used to criticize Putin and reveal corruption among his inner circle, was the first victim of that law when his blog on LiveJournal.com was shut in March. Recent legislation requires Internet companies to store Russian users’ information on servers in the country, similar to Chinese regulations.

Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt said last year, as the changes were being proposed, that Russia was “on the path” toward China’s model of Internet censorship.

“Russia is isolating itself and securing itself from the West,” said Masha Lipman, an independent Moscow-based political analyst. “Putin throughout almost all of his 15 years of rule has made control over societal forces a priority. It’s only natural that his concern is even higher now with the Western sanctions and a deteriorating economy.”

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on September 20, 2014, 00:02:43
Or perhaps he is just trying to convince folks he is bat poop crazy because only a crazy person would actually press the button and launch a nuclear missile.  And the only high card he has in his hand is the nuclear one.

Well maybe not the only one - but I think he is running out of other good ones.

Locking Russia off from the world and turning it into North Korea may be his preferred tactic now.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: George Wallace on September 20, 2014, 00:15:11
Perhaps it is only his belief that Russia must keep its military industrial complex active in order to build up a healthy economy......or maybe he is just batshyte crazy..... :dunno:
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Journeyman on September 20, 2014, 14:11:34
Quote
  Pabst Brewing to be sold to Russian company
 Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/19/pabst-brewing-sold-to-oasis-beverages/15894189/) September 19, 2014


(http://www.fearlesscritic.com/beer/images/m/pabst-blue-ribbon.jpg)

     Why bother?   :dunno:
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on September 26, 2014, 12:31:23
"Crazy? nawww. you don't say"  ;D Ras-PUTIN is being his normal, foreign asset-nationalizing self.

Yahoo Finance/Business Insider (https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/russia-considering-crazy-law-allow-110000465.html)

Quote
Russia Is Considering A Crazy New Law That Would Allow The State To Seize Foreign Assets
Business Insider
By Tomas Hirst – 4 hours ago

on Aug. 27. In another dark twist to the West's standoff with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, a pro-Kremlin deputy has submitted a draft law that would allow the government to seize foreign assets in the country in response to Western economic sanctions.

The law, submitted after Italian authorities seized €30m worth of shares and bank accounts belonging to the Russian businessman Arkady Rotenberg, would also allow for oligarchs to get compensation from the state in the case of an "unjust judicial act of a foreign court." The full (Russian language) text of the draft law can be found here.

Given Russia's parlous economic position — GDP grew only 0.8% this year — the concept of using state funds to bail out multimillionaire businessmen may be received poorly in the country. Already opposition leaders are rounding on the government with Boris Nemtsov, co-chair of the RPR-PARNAS political party and outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, writing on Facebook:

What is [the benefit of] a strongman's friendship? It's when you have 4 villas, apartments and a hotel seized in Italy and your accomplice in the Kremlin immediately introduces a bill for damages from the Russian budget.

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Colin P on September 26, 2014, 17:29:29
     Why bother?   :dunno:

Thankfully they only brew pisswater and not real beer
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 28, 2014, 10:09:22
Part 1 of 3

Here, according to a report which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The New York Times, is how Putin and his inner circle survive sanctions:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/world/europe/it-pays-to-be-putins-friend-.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=LedeSumLargeMedia&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0
Quote
(http://dc473.4shared.com/img/nBQ5wArH/s7/128d0168768/new_york_times.png)
Private Bank Fuels Fortunes of Putin’s Inner Circle

By STEVEN LEE MYERS, JO BECKER and JIM YARDLEY

SEPT. 27, 2014

Weeks after President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in March, an obscure regulatory board in Moscow known as the Market Council convened inside an office tower not far from the Kremlin to discuss the country’s wholesale electricity market. It is a colossal business, worth 2 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product, and a rich source of fees for the bank that had long held the exclusive right to service it.

With no advance notice or public debate, though, the board voted that day in April to shift that business to Bank Rossiya, a smaller institution that lacked the ability to immediately absorb the work. For Bank Rossiya, it was a tidy coup set to yield an estimated $100 million or more in annual commissions, yet it was hardly the only new business coming in. State corporations, local governments and even the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea were suddenly shifting their accounts to the bank, too.

In a matter of days, Bank Rossiya had received an enormous windfall, nearly all from different branches of the Russian state, which was delivering a pointed message. In late March, the United States had made Bank Rossiya a primary target of sanctions, effectively ostracizing it from the global financial system. Now the Kremlin was pushing back, steering lucrative accounts its way to reduce the pain.

The reason the Kremlin rushed to prop up Bank Rossiya is the same reason that the United States, and later its European allies, placed it on the sanctions list: its privileged status as what the Obama administration calls the “personal bank” of the Putin inner circle. Built and run by some of the president’s closest friends and colleagues from his early days in St. Petersburg, Bank Rossiya is emblematic of the way Putin’s brand of crony capitalism has turned loyalists into billionaires whose influence over strategic sectors of the economy has in turn helped him maintain his iron-fisted grip on power.

Now the sanctions are testing the resilience of his economic and political system. Even as President Barack Obama argues that the measures aimed at Putin’s inner circle are pinching Russia’s economy and squeezing the tycoons who dominate it, many of them have mocked the sanctions as a mere nuisance, the economic equivalent of a shaving cut, while the Kremlin has moved rapidly to insulate them.

Woven deeply into the Putin system is Bank Rossiya. Founded as the tiniest of banks in the twilight of the Soviet era, Bank Rossiya, through staggering, stealthy expansion backed by the largesse of the state, now has nearly $11 billion in assets. It controls a vast financial empire with tentacles across the economy, including a large stake in the country’s most powerful private media conglomerate, a key instrument of the Kremlin’s power to shape public opinion. How well the bank survives in a time of sanctions may ultimately be a barometer of whether economic pressure is enough to make Putin stand down at a time when neighboring countries, especially in the Baltics, are increasingly anxious about a newly aggressive Russia.

Putin came to power vowing to eliminate “as a class” the oligarchs who had amassed fortunes - and, to the new president’s mind, a dangerous quotient of political sway - under his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, in the post-Communist chaos of the 1990s. Instead, a new class of tycoons have emerged, men of humble Soviet origins who owe their vast wealth to Putin, and offer unquestioning political fealty to him in return.

“These guys emerged from scratch and became billionaires under Putin,” Sergei Aleksashenko, a former deputy finance minister and central banker, said in a recent interview.

If the modern Russian state is Kremlin Inc., Putin is its CEO, rewarding his friends with control of state-owned companies and doling out lucrative government contracts in deals that provoke accusations of corruption but have the veneer of legality under the Putin system.

“He has given and he has taken away,” said Mikhail M. Kasyanov, who served as prime minister during Putin’s first term. “They depend on him, and he depends on them.”

This inner circle coalesced around Putin as he began his unobtrusive rise, from a middling career as a KGB intelligence officer to a midlevel functionary in the office of St. Petersburg’s mayor.

One of these loyalists is Bank Rossiya’s chairman and largest shareholder, Yuri V. Kovalchuk, a physicist by training, sometimes called the Rupert Murdoch of Russia for his role as architect of the bank’s media interests. Other Bank Rossiya shareholders include several of the country’s wealthiest men, the son of Putin’s cousin and even an old St. Petersburg friend of his, a cellist who was formerly first chair at the fabled Mariinsky Theatre.

The Kremlin has long denied giving Putin’s friends preferential treatment. But in acquiring many of its holdings, the privately held Bank Rossiya benefited from Kremlin directives that allowed it to purchase prized state-owned assets at what critics have called cut-rate prices. Meanwhile the true extent of its holdings is obscured by shadowy corporate shell structures that nest like matryoshka dolls, one inside the next.

Records show that the ownership of one powerful TV advertising company linked to Bank Rossiya, for example, is buried in offshore companies in Panama, in the British Virgin Islands and even at a simple concrete house on Karpathou Street in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, whose owner had no idea of the company registered there.

In the early days of the conflict over Ukraine, several European leaders expressed deep ambivalence about alienating a Russia that under Putin’s rule has become immeasurably wealthier than it ever was under the Soviet system. Russia has been a sought-after partner in the globalized economy, a source of cheap natural gas for Europe, where wealthy Russians have also purchased billions of dollars in real estate in places like the Cote d’Azur and the Belgravia district of London.

But that resistance has to some extent eroded, especially since the downing of a commercial airliner over eastern Ukraine in July that killed 298 people. This month, despite an edgy truce between pro-Russian separatists and government forces in Ukraine, the West announced a new round of sanctions aimed not just at Putin’s powerful cronies but at the Russian economy more broadly.

Some argue, however, that this punitive strategy fundamentally misunderstands the way the Putin system works.

Gennady N. Timchenko, an oil trader and Bank Rossiya investor whose own holding company is also under sanctions, admitted in a recent interview with the Russian government’s news agency, Tass, to a measure of annoyance. He was unhappy that his Learjet had been grounded because of sanctions, and that he could not vacation in France with his family and dog, Romi, which happens to be the offspring of Putin’s beloved black Labrador, Koni.

And yet, he said, he would never presume to question the Russian president’s policies in Ukraine, whatever the cost to companies like his.

“That would be impossible,” he said, going on to refer to Putin formally by his first name and patronymic. “Vladimir Vladimirovich acts in the interest of Russia in any situation, period. No compromises. It would not even enter our minds to discuss that.”

End of Part 1 of 3
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 28, 2014, 10:10:48
Part 2 of 3
Quote
‘A Bouquet of Friends’

In the Kolomna district of St. Petersburg, near the shipyards, is a 19th-century palace that belonged to Grand Duke Aleksei Aleksandrovich, a son of Czar Aleksandr II. Lately its elegant halls - this one in Baroque style, this one English, this one Chinese - have been repurposed as the House of Music, a training academy for classical musicians.

The academy’s artistic director, Sergei P. Roldugin, has his own singular back story. He is an accomplished cellist and musical director. He is certainly not a businessman, he explained at the palace the other day.

“I don’t have millions,” he said.

And yet, on paper at least, he has a fortune that could be worth $350 million. That is because, years ago, he said, he acquired shares in a small bank run by men close to his old friend Putin.

He had met Putin in the 1970s, and is godfather to his eldest daughter, Maria. He opened the House of Music with Putin’s patronage. Last year, he recalled, the president asked him for a favor: Would he organize a private concert?

So Roldugin traveled to the president’s official residence west of Moscow, Novo-Ogaryovo, with three young musicians: a violinist, a pianist and a clarinetist. They played Mozart, Weber and Tchaikovsky - so well, he said, that Putin invited them to play again the next night for the same small group of friends who had gathered there.

They were “of course, very famous people,” Roldugin said, without revealing any names.

“Quite all,” he said, “are under sanctions.”

The concerts are a glimpse into the small, remarkably cohesive group of men who came together around Putin as the old order was crumbling and a new, post-Soviet Russia was taking form.

When the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, began to allow the first experiments in private enterprise in the 1980s, St. Petersburg was still Leningrad, an impoverished shadow of the czarist capital it had been.

An early adapter was Kovalchuk, a physicist at the Ioffe Physical Technical Institute, who founded an enterprise to turn its scientific work into commercially viable products. Another was Timchenko, a former Soviet trade official, who formed a cooperative to export products from an oil refinery on the Baltic Sea.

What brought Putin into their orbit was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. After five years as a KGB officer in East Germany, Putin was part of a wave of embittered military and intelligence officers who withdrew from the Soviet satellites and returned with few prospects to a changing homeland.

Still with the KGB, Putin came into contact with one of his former law professors: Anatoly A. Sobchak, a reformer who had just become chairman of the Leningrad legislature (and would later become mayor of the renamed St. Petersburg). He asked Putin to become an adviser, to smooth relations with the still-powerful security services. And when the Soviet Union collapsed, Putin joined Sobchak full time, overseeing a new committee on foreign economic relations.

The committee worked closely with Russia’s emerging entrepreneurs, regulating imports and exports and distributing city contracts. Some of the deals became controversial, notably one during the hungry winter of 1991-92, of a deal to barter oil, metal and other products for food. Virtually none of the food ever materialized, and a City Council committee unsuccessfully sought to have Putin fired for incompetence.

For all that, Putin was considered an efficient, unprepossessing administrator, helping businessmen cut through the bureaucracy. His fluency in German was useful with the many Germans seeking a foothold in the city. Among them was Matthias Warnig, formerly of the East German secret police, the Stasi, who opened one of the city’s first foreign banks, Dresdner.

Putin was, in short, both collecting new friends and laying the foundation for what would evolve into the system of personalized, state-sponsored capitalism now at the heart of his power.

“It was a favorable environment for such a bouquet of friends to appear,” explained Mikhail I. Amosov, who served on the City Council at the time.

In many cases, contracts and property were distributed through insider deals, often without open or transparent bidding.

“Everything was decided through personal connections,” Amosov said. “We didn’t like it.”

One enterprise that received an infusion of municipal aid was Bank Rossiya.

The bank had been founded in 1990 at the initiative of the city’s branch of the Communist Party, with party funds as capital. It was also believed to handle the banking needs of the KGB. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was all but bust.

Kovalchuk stepped in. In December 1991, he and a group of friends secured a small loan from a local shoe manufacturer and bought the foundering bank. The investors included three other alumni of the Ioffe Technical Institute - the physicists Victor Y. Myachin and Andrei A. Fursenko, and Vladimir I. Yakunin, the institute’s former head of international relations.

The reconstituted Bank Rossiya quickly became a favored city institution. At the mayor’s instruction, according to news reports, the city opened several large accounts there, fattening the bank’s coffers and setting it on its way.

Business connections became deeply personal connections.

In 1996, Putin joined seven businessmen, most of them Bank Rossiya shareholders, in forming a cooperative of summer homes, or dachas, called Ozero, or “lake,” in the northeast of St. Petersburg. The group has come to have an outsize influence on Russia’s political and economic life. The cooperative included the homes of Putin, Yakunin, Kovalchuk, Fursenko and his brother Sergei, Myachin, and Nikolai T. Shamalov, who headed the St. Petersburg office of the German manufacturer Siemens and would also acquire a major stake in Bank Rossiya. Vladimir A. Smirnov, a St. Petersburg businessman with an exclusive contract to supply the city’s gasoline retailers, served as Ozero’s director.

Timchenko, the oil trader, entered the Bank Rossiya circle as an investor; according to the bank, his stake is owned by a company he controls. Warnig, the German banker, would later join Bank Rossiya’s board. (When Putin’s wife was badly injured in a car accident, Warnig’s bank arranged to pay for her medical care in Germany.)

And there was Roldugin, the cellist.

“The issue was that I needed to have some money,” he said, adding, “There was no money for art anywhere.”

His investment, he said, involved “a lot of manipulations” and required him to take out a loan. Today the bank lists him as owner of 3.2 percent of its shares.

Putin’s stint in St. Petersburg ended in 1996, when his boss lost his bid for re-election. Soon Putin had a new boss, Yeltsin. And after Yeltsin unexpectedly elevated him to prime minister and then acting president on New Year’s Eve in 1999, the fortunes of many of his friends - and their little bank - began to be transformed.

‘Bank Rossiya, That’s It’

He had arrived in Moscow as a midlevel apparatchik in ill-fitting suits, had ascended to power as a thoroughly unexpected president and won his first presidential election in 2000 on the crest of war to suppress separatists in Chechnya. By 2004, Putin had become the paramount figure in Russia, winning a second term with 72 percent of the vote, in a race tainted by allegations of strong-arm tactics and vote rigging. Yet Putin probably would have won a fair election easily, too. The Russian economy, buoyed by high oil prices, was booming, creating huge fortunes and also lifting the middle class. The long era of post-Soviet gloom seemed done.

Not many people yet understood that in the middle of Russia’s prosperity, the men in the tight circle close to Putin were becoming fabulously wealthy, and increasingly powerful, in what critics now consider a case study in legalized kleptocracy.

Bank Rossiya, which reported less than $1 million in profits the year before Putin became president, had grown steadily, but figures like Kovalchuk and Timchenko remained in the shadows.

“I didn’t even know such names - Timchenko, Kovalchuk,” said Kasyanov, whom Putin dismissed as prime minister shortly before the elections.

During the 2004 campaign, one of Putin’s quixotic challengers, Ivan P. Rybkin, did raise the issue of corruption, accusing Kovalchuk and Timchenko of acting as the president’s “cashiers.” But few people were listening. (Rybkin disappeared soon after making his accusation, re-emerging several days later, saying he had been kidnapped and drugged in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev.)

In sanctioning Bank Rossiya, the Obama administration would resurface the “cashier” allegation, though it offered no evidence that Putin has personally profited from the bank. Kovalchuk, who through a spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment, in the past has attributed his bank’s success not to any special treatment but to sound investment and business decisions.

Either way, Bank Rossiya’s holdings would increase tenfold during Putin’s second term. Critical to this remarkable growth was the bank’s ability to snap up assets, at knockdown prices, that had previously belonged to the state-owned energy company Gazprom.

Those deals were documented in a series of reports published at the end of Putin’s second term by Boris Y. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, Vladimir V. Milov, a former deputy energy minister, and others.

“The total value of the assets exfiltrated from Gazprom,” they estimated, was $60 billion.

An early deal involved one of the country’s biggest insurers, Sogaz. Bank Rossiya bought a controlling stake in Sogaz by acquiring shares that had been held by Gazprom. The bank paid around $100 million, according to Nemtsov and Milov, who later valued Sogaz at $2 billion.

“Putin said, ‘Bank Rossiya, that’s it,’” Milov later told the Russian edition of Forbes.

Sogaz became the insurer of choice for major state companies like Russian Railways, headed by Yakunin, and the growing oil giant, Rosneft, by then led by Igor I. Sechin, who had been Putin’s deputy in the St. Petersburg mayor’s office. Sogaz also bought 75 percent of a company called Leader that managed Gazprom’s $6 billion pension fund, Gazfond. The purchase price was $30 million, less than Leader’s profits that year alone, according to Nemtsov and Milov.

It seemed to be a quintessential insider deal: The year before, Yuri Shamalov, son of the Bank Rossiya shareholder and Ozero member, had been appointed chairman of Gazfond.

“Shamalov Jr., as head of Gazfond, sold shares in the company managing Russia’s largest private pension fund at a fantastically low price to the bank owned by his father,” Nemtsov asserted.

At the same time, Kovalchuk, the bank’s chairman, began assembling a media empire that now controls some of Russia’s largest television and radio stations and newspapers.

Bank Rossiya had already assumed management of the assets of Gazprombank, one of Russia’s largest. Now, Gazprombank purchased Gazprom Media Group, which owns five TV and several radio stations. The price: $166 million.

Two years later, Dmitri A. Medvedev, a Putin protégé and first deputy prime minister, put Gazprom Media’s value at $7.5 billion, or 45 times the purchase price.

Not content merely to manage media assets, Bank Rossiya began buying up media companies of its own.

In 2005, a subsidiary of Bank Rossiya bought a stake in Channel 5, a local television network owned by the St. Petersburg government. The price was $25 million. There was no competition. Channel 5’s value swelled in 2006, when regulators let it acquire frequencies in 30 regions across Russia.

Soon after, Putin designated it a national broadcaster, able to reach 91 cities and 53 million people. Today, it is the country’s fifth-largest broadcaster.

A year later, a Bank Rossiya subsidiary bought a controlling stake in Ren TV, today the country’s eighth-largest broadcaster.

Once known for investigating government corruption and airing opposition views that were never allowed on state television, Ren TV over time became noticeably less critical.

In August, amid the fervor over Ukraine, it canceled what was widely viewed as one of the last reasonably independent national political talk shows, “Nedelya,” or “The Week.”

“The first goal was political control of the media,” said Roman Pivovarov, a leading analyst of the Russian media landscape. “But that was achieved relatively early on. So this was as much about money. The picture today is clear, in that the big media belongs to the small circle of people who control not only the politics but the economics of Russia.”

By 2008, Putin’s second term was ending and the Bank Rossiya media empire provided a supportive voice when, rather than recede from politics, he decided to serve as prime minister. Medvedev was elected president, while Putin largely retained control over the levers of government.

Two years later, Kovalchuk scored his biggest prize - a 25 percent stake in Channel 1, a state-controlled network with the largest audience in Russia. The stake cost only $150 million, “an amazingly low price,” according to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The next year, Channel 1 reported profits of nearly $100 million.

Then, in 2012, Putin announced he would seek a third term as president. Democracy activists were deeply alarmed but powerless. No one doubted he would win, though the economy had slowed and Putin’s men were targets of rising criticism, no longer hidden.

End of Part 2
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on September 28, 2014, 10:11:33

Part 3 of 3
Quote
‘My Friends Get Everything’

To grasp how Bank Rossiya’s holdings extend around the globe - and how island tax havens and other tools of global finance may serve to obscure their true breadth - one place to visit is 13A Karpathou Street in Nicosia. This is the registered address of Med Media Network Limited, a company listed in a corporate flow chart connecting Bank Rossiya to a company called Video International.

In a peculiarity of the Russian marketplace, broadcasters do not sell advertising time directly. They act through middlemen like Video International, which buy airtime wholesale, then sell to those who wish to advertise.

Med Media is a major shareholder, holding a 20 percent stake. Except that Med Media’s address in Cyprus is hardly a corporate headquarters at all. It is a simple concrete home with a large ficus shading a small garden. The owner, Agathi Zinonos, has never heard of Med Media or any of the other companies registered there.

She regularly receives legal documents in the mail from Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and other countries.

“Every day, there is a whole packet coming,” she said, noting that the documents are addressed to her son, who recently moved out. “Whatever comes, I take to him, because it is a lot of companies.”

Attempting to unwind Video International’s convoluted corporate structure requires going back to 2011. That is when Bank Rossiya and a couple of partners purchased the company, according to an interview given by Video International’s chief executive in 2013.

Video International had controlled 70 percent of the advertising-placement market. But in the months before the sale, the government hastily enacted a new antimonopoly law, prohibiting national TV networks from using advertising shops that controlled more than 35 percent of the market. Video International would have to abandon many of its contracts.

But what looked like a debacle for Video International turned out to be a boon for Bank Rossiya. The new law depressed the company’s value - and thus its purchase price. And while Video International gave up many contracts, its new owners managed to profit from the “lost” business: Many of the networks simply brought the placement business in house - while continuing to pay Video International consulting and software-licensing fees.

Reflecting on the way the government’s antimonopoly office has looked the other way, Aleksashenko, the former deputy finance minister, invoked the saying “my friends get everything, while my enemies get the law.”

Among those taking part in the new arrangement was CTC Media, a company with several TV channels that was partially owned by a subsidiary of Bank Rossiya. CTC continues to pay Video International around $80 million a year - but as a consultant.

Yet while the arrangement allowed Video International to maneuver around Russian law, it may actually have placed CTC at risk of violating U.S. sanctions. For though CTC is a Russian broadcaster, its headquarters are in Delaware and it is traded on the Nasdaq. The sanctions prohibit American-headquartered companies like CTC from doing business with entities that are majority-owned by sanctioned companies like Bank Rossiya.

But whether Bank Rossiya retains a majority stake in Video International is impossible to ascertain. Records show that, on paper at least, its shares, held by a subsidiary, are down to 15 percent. Nearly all the rest of the shareholders are buried behind fronts like Med Media of Karpathou Street.

Cyprus is one of the world’s busiest offshore financial-service centers, with one of Europe’s lowest corporate tax rates and laws that enable foreigners to incorporate companies within days. Nearly 270,000 companies are registered there, and many are shells created to shelter income while obscuring the real owners.

Zinonos’ son, Zinon, who is listed as a Med Media director, is an administrator at Scordis, Papapetrou & Co., a Nicosia law firm that not only represents Med Media but helped create it. A partner there, Makis Chrysomilas, said his firm typically uses its own address or those of employees when establishing residence for shell companies.

“We are lawyers for 4,000 or 5,000 corporations,” he said.

Coming up with names for them can be a challenge, he explained. So he has taken names from a book listing the thoroughbred horses auctioned in the United States. He also has named companies after streets in London and other European cities.

Cypriot laws enable the true owners of shell companies to remain secret. Of the eight corporations with shares in Video International, at least five, with a combined stake of 69 percent, are incorporated in Cyprus: Med Media, Namiral Trading Limited, Devar Investments Limited, Reibruk Limited and Attalion Investments Limited. Delving into their ownership produces yet more corporate shells, headquartered in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, equally opaque jurisdictions.

Cari N. Stinebower, who advises clients on sanctions compliance at the law firm of Crowell & Moring, called the web of shell companies a “red flag.”

“The way the law works,” she said, “it’s incumbent on CTC to understand the beneficial ownership of the company they are doing business with” to ensure that there is not “some sanctioned entity at the end of the chain.”

A Video International spokesman would not reveal who was behind the shell companies, and said only that they had not been sanctioned.

“Why is the shareholder structure specifically like that?” he said. “Because the shareholders decided so.”

A CTC official declined to say what if any due diligence the company had done to determine if it was violating the sanctions. But he said CTC was working with the Treasury Department to ensure that it complied with the law.

‘A Medium-Sized Bank’

The day after Obama blacklisted Bank Rossiya, Putin met with his national security council. Told that a total of 20 people had also been sanctioned - including three security council members, Putin compatriots from St. Petersburg - the president turned sarcastic.

“We should distance ourselves from them,” he said, deadpan. “They compromise us.”

As for Bank Rossiya, he went on: “As far as I recall, this is a medium-sized bank. Personally, I did not have an account there, but I will definitely open one on Monday.”

He later directed the presidential administration to begin depositing his official salary - roughly $7,500 a month - into a Bank Rossiya account.

Kovalchuk later gave a rare TV interview with Dmitri K. Kiselyov, a prominent news anchor and ardent defender of Putin’s Russia. The president’s public gesture, Kovalchuk said, had prompted a flood of new customers, including an old, impoverished woman who wanted to deposit her life savings. For a bank with billions in assets, “this old woman means nothing financially, but the fact is that is worth more than any financial investments,” he said. “There is a Putin factor, and it is unconditional. The fact is that people intuitively feel which side of the barricades business stands on.”

Putin’s efforts to protect the bank were not just symbolic. He ordered the Central Bank to provide assistance if needed. State-owned energy companies transferred accounts to Bank Rossiya, and the governors of St. Petersburg and the surrounding Leningrad region told state institutions in their jurisdictions to do the same, according to Russian news reports. Additionally, in the lower house of parliament, the main party loyal to Putin provided the margin needed to rescind the law effectively limiting Video International to just 35 percent of the advertising-placement market.

And on April 10, the Market Council stepped in. The council, which regulates Russia’s $35 billion wholesale electricity market, is a nonprofit organization with 22 members representing government ministries as well as major producers and suppliers of electricity. One of the council’s members is an executive at Inter RAO UES, a private enterprise spun off from the former state electricity monopoly. Its chief executive is Kovalchuk’s son, Boris; its board chairman is Sechin, the president of the state-owned oil giant Rosneft and one of Putin’s closest advisers.

The council met at its office in Moscow’s World Trade Center. A spokeswoman declined to discuss the vote, except to say that a quorum attended, explaining that she did not want to contribute to an “anti-Russian” article. The decision to shift the business to Bank Rossiya, she said, was one of several routine actions taken during a regular meeting that day. In remarks published on the council’s website in May, its director, Maksim S. Bystrov, said Bank Rossiya had “brought us” a proposal with lower commissions than those charged by the previous bank, Alfa. But he declined to provide details, and Alfa Bank declined to comment.

As the United States and Europe continue to ratchet up the economic pressure, it is an open question how long the government can continue to prop up the growing number of institutions faced with sanctions. Russia’s economy had been struggling even before the annexation of Crimea. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development recently predicted that, with the added impact of Western sanctions and Putin’s retaliatory embargo on Western goods, the economy could contract next year.

Other companies are lining up behind Bank Rossiya, hoping for bailouts. The government recently announced that it would pump $6.6 billion into two state-controlled banks whose access to foreign capital has been cut. And Sechin’s Rosneft has requested a $42 billion loan.

For his part, Putin has denounced the sanctions as unfairly targeting people with no influence over Russia’s policies on Crimea or Ukraine.

“Yes, these people are my friends and I’m proud to have such friends,” he said at an economic forum in St. Petersburg in May. “They are true patriots and their business is oriented towards Russia. Have these sanctions done damage to them? Yes, they have. If I’m being honest, they have. But they are seasoned entrepreneurs and brought all their money back to Russia, so don’t worry about them too much.”

End of Part 3 of 3
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on October 08, 2014, 10:31:45
Vlad needs money he doesn't have.

A reality check from his Finance Minister.

Quote
   Finance Minister Says Russia's Grand Rearmament Plans are Unaffordable   
   
(Source: Moscow Times; published Oct 07, 2014)
   
   Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says that Russia will not be able to afford its current level of military spending in the long term, as an economic slowdown amid declining oil prices and Western sanctions forces Moscow to drastically alter the expected funding environment.

Russia is currently pursuing a 20 trillion ruble ($500 billion) rearmament program through 2020, and announced last month that another defense program with comparable spending is in the works for 2016-25.

The 2016-25 rearmament plans, however, may not enjoy the same lavish level of funding as the ongoing program. "We want to reconsider the amount of resources devoted in the course of this new program, so that they are more realistic," Siluanov was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying Tuesday.

Siluanov explained that the current proposals for the program were formulated when Russia's economic outlook was brighter.

Russia's economy has suffered from various punitive measures enacted by Western governments over Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March and its alleged role in Ukraine's crisis. U.S. and EU sanctions, besides targeting specific Russian companies and individuals, have also made many foreign bankers skittish over investing in any companies based in Russia.

Meanwhile, the declining value of the ruble, rising inflation, and falling oil prices have forced the Economic Development Ministry to halve their growth forecast for next year to 1 percent.

"Right now we simply cannot afford to carry out [the 2016-25 armament plan] and will work out a means to determine what can be funded by the budget with the defense minister," Siluanov said at a Federation Council hearing.

Various statements from defense officials in recent months have painted an increasingly ambitious picture for the Russian government's military modernization goals. Most recently, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that Russia's nuclear forces — the backbone of Russian military power — would be completely outfitted with new missile systems by 2020.

Despite the strain on the federal budget, some analysts have said that high spending on defense helps boost the economy. A report released by Moscow's Higher School of Economics in late September showed that military and related defense expenditures, such as "the production of ships, airplanes, spacecraft and other means of transportation," was one of the primary driving forces of a surge in industrial production.

However, the report cautioned that these developments mask stagnation across most other areas of manufacturing.

link (http://www.defense-aerospace.com/article-view/release/157785/fin-min%3A-russian-rearmament-%E2%80%9Cunaffordable%E2%80%9D.html)

Does this have any impact on Vlad? Does he expect to be in power in 2025? Possibly-probably.

Does this slow his plans or speed them up?  I think it is likely to encourage him to be more radical.

Does he revert to a command economy? A real possiblity.  He can argue that Russia is under siege and they need to revert to the old ways.
That could possibly fly with the pensioners but will it fly with the oligarchs?

The other solution found in history has been to go invading other countries to capture their gold.  But as Vlad is discovering in Donbas, even/especially a slow motion war wrecks the targeted economy.  And since the value of a country is its GDP and the ability of the GDP to support borrowing an invaded country is a degraded asset that is more likely to be a liability. 

If he can't find enough money to buy an army can he find enough money to buy an empire?  The Brits couldn't and they were the most recent and most successful attempt.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MCG on October 09, 2014, 16:07:06
 As we launch into a new round of whack-a-mole in the desert,  some wonder if we are committing ourselves to the lesser dangerous threat.

Quote
Putin is more dangerous than ISIL, harder to understand and a much bigger threat to world order
Ottawa Citizen
Opinion - Eric Morse
16 Sep 2014

Judging by reactions at the NATO summit in Wales last week and an emergency gathering of 40 countries in Paris this Monday, European nations view the Islamic Caliphate (ISIS/ISIL/IS) as a greater threat than Vladimir Putin's revanchist ambitions in Eastern Europe. That may be understandable, but it's extremely disturbing.
 
The Caliphate is certainly a threat. It has occupied/created a black hole in the Middle East. Despite Obama's overheated promise to "destroy" it, that's going to take a lot more doing than airstrikes and some special forces (including Canadian advisers) on the ground can muster.
 
The upgraded light cavalry tactics that the Caliphate has been using until recently can be beaten back fairly easily with enough intelligence and air power.
 
Actually retaking territory held by it will be far harder, because that will involve cities with civilian populations.
 
Retaking a city like Mosul will be a horror. Judging by their performance up to now, Caliphate forces will fight to the death in their strongholds and may try to leave nothing living behind them. Western publics will not like to see their air (or ground) forces used to inflict the kind of devastation that will be involved.
 
Local disaffection in the face of what terror the Caliphate is accustomed to inflict will not be very helpful. Reducing the Caliphate's power - if it can be done - will be a job for regional states. But it's one thing to show up at a conference (to which Iran was not even invited), another to co-operate effectively in a ground war.
 
Still, the Caliphate is not an existential threat to world order on the scale that Russia is. We know what the Caliphate wants. We are a great deal less sure about Putin's objectives, only that he is willing to overthrow just about anything to achieve them. Europe's leaders pay more attention to the Caliphate partly because they have no real idea what to do about him. Meanwhile, as of Monday ominous "reports" are coming out of Moscow about "oppression" of the Russian minority in Estonia.
 
The Caliphate disrupts existing borders and states, some of which may never be revived.
 
The continued existence of a "Syrian state" supported by Iran and Russia is one of the larger problems in getting a working coalition going against it.
 
Obama talks of arming the "moderate rebels," but he isn't going to find any. Yet it is perfectly clear (as it was in fighting the Taliban) that as long as there is even a fictitious border to hide behind, an insurgency cannot be fought.
 
Putin may be happily dismantling sovereignties in Europe, but he is quite firm in supporting that of Bashar Assad in the Middle East, if only because it gives him yet another chance to play spoiler and humiliate Obama and NATO.
 
He has already declared that any U.S. airstrikes in Syria will be taken as an act of aggression against Syria unless the U.S. allies with Assad - who, Russia reminds us, is allied with Russia and Iran.
 
At this point, Iran is probably less interested in supporting Assad than it is in fighting the Caliphate, and it also doesn't love Russia. It should have been at the Paris conference, but will likely turn a blind eye to whatever the U.S. feels it has to do in Syria.
 
Given Russia's Muslim, restive southern flank, Putin should have far greater reason to fear the Caliphate as an imminent threat than the West does. But apparently, he is viewing it as a strategic distraction for the West which he can leverage to achieve his objectives closer to home.

Eric Morse is a former Canadian diplomat who is cochair of the Security Studies Committee of the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 13, 2014, 12:45:44
In this report, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Reuters, that news agency says that China will "bail out" Russia ... that may not be unallayed good news for the Russians:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/13/us-russia-china-banks-idUSKCN0I20WG20141013
Quote
(http://s3.reutersmedia.net/resources_v2/images/masthead-logo.gif)
Russia signs deals with China to help weather sanctions

BY VLADIMIR SOLDATKIN
MOSCOW

Mon Oct 13, 2014

(Reuters) - Russia and China signed energy, trade and finance agreements on Monday proclaimed by Moscow as proof that a policy turn to Asia is bearing fruit and will help it to weather Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

The 38 deals, signed on a visit to Moscow by Premier Li Keqiang, allow for deeper cooperation on energy and a currency swap worth 150 billion yuan ($25 billion) intended partly to reduce the sway of the U.S. dollar.

They are among the first clear successes of the eastward shift, ordered by President Vladimir Putin to avoid isolation over the sanctions, since the vast nations reached a $400 billion, 30-year natural gas supply agreement in May.

"I consider it important that, in spite of the difficult situation, we are opening up new possibilities," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said after the signing ceremony.

In a sign that mistrust has still not been completely buried, Li was less effusive, even when holding out the prospect of a deal in 2015 to build a second pipeline along what is called the Western route to ferry Russian gas to China.

"Cooperation over natural gas between Russia and China goes back quite a long way," Li said. But he added: "Further discussion is needed between companies."

For Russia, the agreements offer some relief, with the European Union and the United States showing no signs of lifting sanctions imposed over Russia's annexation of the Crimea peninsula and its backing of separatists in east Ukraine.

The sanctions target the finance, energy and defense sectors, restricting some state firms' and banks' ability to raise financing in Western markets.

The currency swap strengthens China's plans to promote international usage of the yuan CNY= following pledges by Moscow and Beijing to settle more bilateral trade in roubles and yuan. Spurred by their often fraught relations with the United States, Russia and China have long advocated reducing the role of the dollar in international commerce.

China, which has 32 percent of its $4 trillion foreign exchange reserves invested in U.S. government debt, would like to cap its vulnerabilities to any fluctuations in the dollar in the near term. Over the longer term, it wants to increase the yuan's clout and turn it into a global reserve currency.

EASTWARD SHIFT IN OIL SUPPLIES

Medvedev said trade turnover between Russia and China had grown by more than 100 percent over the past six years from $40 billion to $90 billion.

"We are very close partners," he said, although trade with the combined 28 nations of the EU is greater than with China.

Under the new agreements, cooperation will deepen between state oil producer Rosneft (ROSN.MM) and China National Petroleum Corporation, including in liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects and possibly LNG supplies to China.

Banks VTB (VTBR.MM), VEB and Russian Agriculture Bank - like Rosneft hit by sanctions - signed framework agreements with China Exim bank to open credit lines.

Mobile phone operator MegaFon and China Development Bank agreed to arrange financing of $500 million.

Li, who arrived from Germany and will go on to Italy for a summit of European and Asian leaders later this week, is expected to hold talks with Putin on Tuesday.

Another sign that Russian ties with Beijing are improving was the release of energy ministry data showing crude oil supplies to China rose in January-September by almost 45 percent year-on-year. Shipments from the Baltic Sea port of Primorsk toward Europe fell almost 20 percent.

"Much greater changes can be seen in the geographical distribution of these shrinking exports, with flows to the West clearly losing out against prioritized links to the Far East, a trend that could easily be accelerated further in the current political climate," JBC Energy consultancy said in a note.

Beijing has made clear it wants to increase business with Russia and cash in on the crisis in relations between Moscow and the West, now at their worst level since the Cold War.

But time will be needed to end mistrust in relations between countries that almost went to war in a border dispute in the 1960s, when Russia was part of the Communist Soviet Union.

Beijing is interested in investing in infrastructure, energy and commodities in Russia, but Moscow long had reservations about allowing Chinese investment in strategic industries.

China may also have worries about investing in an economy that is stuttering, with the rouble hit by sanctions and a drop in the price of oil, Russia's most important export commodity.

(Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova, Denis Pinchuk, Lidia Kelly and Alexander Winning in Moscow and by Gui Qing Koh in Beijing; Writing by Timothy Heritage; editing by David Stamp)


Russia is used to being in the driver's seat on energy deals and it has, in the past, cut supplies to Europe when it suited it ... it will do that once, and only once with Beijing. The Russian Bear is big, but shambling and weak in the Far East; the Chinese Dragon is bigger, strong, nimble and single minded.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on October 13, 2014, 13:15:45
As in: if Canada reneges on an oil deal with China then China needs a boat to come and get the oil while if Russia reneges on the same deal it becomes "a mere matter of marching"?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Baden Guy on October 15, 2014, 10:30:53
Reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the New York Times;

Is it just my imagination or is there a global oil war underway pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other? One can’t say for sure whether the American-Saudi oil alliance is deliberate or a coincidence of interests, but, if it is explicit, then clearly we’re trying to do to President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exactly what the Americans and Saudis did to the last leaders of the Soviet Union: pump them to death — bankrupt them by bringing down the price of oil to levels below what both Moscow and Tehran need to finance their budgets.


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/15/opinion/thomas-friedman-a-pump-war.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=0

Great article. Is that why my gas at the pumps is so low.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 15, 2014, 15:28:30
Reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the New York Times;

Is it just my imagination or is there a global oil war underway pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other? One can’t say for sure whether the American-Saudi oil alliance is deliberate or a coincidence of interests, but, if it is explicit, then clearly we’re trying to do to President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exactly what the Americans and Saudis did to the last leaders of the Soviet Union: pump them to death — bankrupt them by bringing down the price of oil to levels below what both Moscow and Tehran need to finance their budgets.


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/15/opinion/thomas-friedman-a-pump-war.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=0

Great article. Is that why my gas at the pumps is so low.


Thomas Friedman often talks plain, simple sense ... he sees the connections in disparate things. In this case I'm not sure that the perceived strategy is the result of planning or just good fortune. But, in a fully serviced market, the normal reaction of suppliers is to cut production until equilibrium is achieved, but the Saudis are maintaining and even increasing production, despite falling crashing oil prices so maybe there is a plan, after all.

Canada is, of course, being hurt by this process, but ...

Anything that hurts Russia is a good thing.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on October 15, 2014, 22:32:18
Some experts predict Putin's next aggressive move could be in the Baltic states...

Yahoo Finance/Business Insider (https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/putins-next-move-could-eastern-120000288.html)

Quote
Putin's Next Move Could Make Eastern Europe Explode
Business Insider
By Brett LoGiurato – 13 hours ago

(...SNIPPED)

Three of the four panelists —  New Yorker editor David Remnick, journalist and author Masha Gessen, Russian political activist and former grand chessmaster Garry Kasparov, and former Treasury Department official Roger Altman — agreed Putin could soon try to stretch his influence into the Baltic states of  Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

"They already are under pressure," Gessen, the author of a  2012 unauthorized biography  of Putin, said of the Baltics. "That's very much where he's doing his nuclear saber-rattling, and that's where he's planning to call NATO's bluff."

Unlike Ukraine, all three Baltic states are NATO members.  NATO's Article 5 requires all members of the alliance come to the defense of any member that is attacked or targeted.


Putin last month made casual mention of his country's nuclear arsenal, around the same time NATO accused Russian forces of an "incursion" in Ukraine. Many analysts have speculated Putin's next move could come in the Baltic states, something that would be a clear challenge to NATO.

Amid the bluster from Putin — who also reportedly said in a private conversation he could invade Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states if he really wanted to — NATO states made a point of countering with strong rhetoric of their own.

(...SNIPPED)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on October 19, 2014, 18:49:08
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Financial Times, is some informed opinion about the impact of low oil prices on Russia:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/988c386a-552a-11e4-89e8-00144feab7de.html#axzz3Gd5GxIZi
Quote
(http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/Economics/images-multimedia/logos/Financial-Times-long-Logo.jpg)
Russia can withstand lower oil prices but not for very long
The government will have either to cut spending or raise taxes, writes Sergei Guriev

Sergei Guriev

October 19, 2014

Russia does not face an immediate threat from the sharp fall in oil prices over recent months. While the economy is heavily dependent on oil, the country’s accumulated reserves and the floating rouble will mitigate the shock, and Russia should be able to withstand levels of $80 to $90 a barrel for about two years. But in the longer term, persistently low prices – reinforced by the pressure imposed by western sanctions – could pose an existential challenge to Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The 25 per cent drop in the oil price over the past three months did come as a shock to the Russian government. The latest draft of the 2015-17 budget assumes a price of $100 a barrel (and average annual gross domestic product growth of 2.6 per cent). Even before the oil price shift, the government planned to deplete its Reserve Fund from 5 per cent of GDP to 3 per cent by the end of 2017, in order to pay for the deficit foreseen in each of the next three years. Much of Russia’s other sovereign fund, the National Welfare Fund, has already been committed to infrastructure and providing support to the banks and companies sanctioned by the west.

Oil and gas account for about half of government revenues in Russia; a price drop from $100 to $80 a barrel would cause a shortfall of about 2 per cent of GDP. Normally this would not be a great problem, as Russia would borrow in international markets, and Russian state-owned banks and companies would refinance their external debt.

In the light of the west’s sanctions, the situation is a lot more uncomfortable. But this does not mean Russia will run out of cash before the end of 2017. The central bank has committed to the floating exchange rate, so the lower oil price will result in a weaker rouble, helping both the economy and the government’s own budget to weather the shock. Russian government spending is denominated in roubles; if depreciation is strong enough, the budget may be balanced even if the oil price is at $80.

This will not solve Mr Putin’s real problem: stagnating, and most likely declining, real incomes. Capital outflows will continue to result in lower investment, and therefore lower growth, in coming years. The government’s 2 per cent growth forecast for 2015 already looks optimistic. Even before the oil price dropped, the consensus was for 1 per cent; the forecast by market analysts and international organisations is now about 0.5 per cent. And while the central bank will attempt to keep a lid on inflation, a weaker rouble will undermine the purchasing power of Russian consumers in real terms. Russia is a net importer of food and consumer goods; while there will be substantial import substitution, overall prices can be expected to increase.

Mr Putin’s government has never faced budget constraints as tough. Even during the 2008-09 financial crisis, the challenge was more manageable. The budget then was based on an oil price of $40 to $50 a barrel, while Russia had much larger Reserve and National Welfare Funds, worth 20 per cent of GDP. Not surprisingly, the state spent its way out of the crisis.

This time, the government will have to choose whether to cut spending, and thus publicly recognise its inability to deliver on Mr Putin’s 2012 electoral promises, or raise taxes – which would further hit investment and GDP growth. Either way, if oil prices remain in the $80 to $90 range, the government will have to placate an electorate suffering lower living standards. The experience of recent months gives us a good idea of how Mr Putin will respond: by convincing the public that they are in a besieged fortress and must rally around the flag whatever the cost. This will require raising propaganda and political repression to yet another level – and may involve even more unpredictable foreign policy choices.

The writer, a former rector of the New Economic School in Moscow, is professor of economics at Sciences Po in Paris


See, also: this (https://army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,64040.msg1333195.html#msg1333195) in the Grand Strategy for a Divided America thread.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Altair on October 20, 2014, 14:13:43

Thomas Friedman often talks plain, simple sense ... he sees the connections in disparate things. In this case I'm not sure that the perceived strategy is the result of planning or just good fortune. But, in a fully serviced market, the normal reaction of suppliers is to cut production until equilibrium is achieved, but the Saudis are maintaining and even increasing production, despite falling crashing oil prices so maybe there is a plan, after all.

Canada is, of course, being hurt by this process, but ...

Anything that hurts Russia is a good thing.
As a major oil exporter, I'm not sure Canadians should be chearing this.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on October 22, 2014, 08:38:59
As a major oil exporter, I'm not sure Canadians should be chearing this.

Saudi Arabia is aiming its oil weapon at all potential competitors, Russia and Iran since they are the most dangerous in the short term, but American Shale Oil and Canadian Oil Sands since we are a long term threat to them. OTOH, while Russia and Iran are heavily dependant on oil revenues to survive, Canada and the US have larger and more diversified economies which can weather this more easily. It may not be "good" and it will certainly hurt some sectors of the economy, but not as drastically and probably not as long.

Don't forget that the Saudi Kingdom is also dependent on it's oil revenues to maintain domestic stability by essentially "paying off" its masses of unemployed young people, radicals and various "princes". Low oil prices will make it harder to do this and maintain their external adventures as well.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on October 22, 2014, 10:01:55
Also, it has been pointed out (by whom I can't remember  :-[ ) that because our dollar is considered a petro-dollar by the market when the price of oil drops the value of our dollar drops.  When we sell into the US we get paid in US dollars.

So with the dollars at par and oil at $100 per barrel then we get $100 CAD for our barrel.  But when the barrel drops to $80 per barrel then the Canadian dollar drops to $0.80 USD / CAD.  Consequently we get $80 USD per barrel which in turn buys $100 CAD.

Our internal economy keeps humming along as before.  Our exports are more competitively priced in all market sectors.  Our imports are more expensive which opens up new domestic market opportunities.

It ain't all doom and gloom.

We are all going to die..... just not today  >:D
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Altair on October 22, 2014, 17:20:22
Also, it has been pointed out (by whom I can't remember  :-[ ) that because our dollar is considered a petro-dollar by the market when the price of oil drops the value of our dollar drops.  When we sell into the US we get paid in US dollars.

So with the dollars at par and oil at $100 per barrel then we get $100 CAD for our barrel.  But when the barrel drops to $80 per barrel then the Canadian dollar drops to $0.80 USD / CAD.  Consequently we get $80 USD per barrel which in turn buys $100 CAD.


So as long as both drop in tandem the economy wont take so much of a hit?
 
Well, that works. I remember reading somewhere that for every dollar the price of oil drops the Alberta goverment loses out on 250 million dollars in royalties.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on October 29, 2014, 13:25:16
Speaking of the oil/energy barons:

Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/29/us-ukraine-crisis-energy-russia-insight-idUSKBN0II0AD20141029)

Quote
Sanctions bind Russia's energy elite to Putin
BY ELIZABETH PIPER AND TIMOTHY HERITAGE
MOSCOW Wed Oct 29, 2014 2:10am EDT

(...SNIPPED)

The relationship between the two state run firms has long been strained. Most recently Gazprom, successor to the Soviet gas ministry, has been worried by Rosneft's ambition to increase its gas output having become Russia's biggest oil producer, borne out in an intensifying price war for domestic gas consumers.

The mere suggestion that such rivals could cooperate to reduce the impact of sanctions is one of the strongest signals yet of how, after seven months, Western measures are having the opposite effect to the one intended.

Far from dividing those closest to President Vladimir Putin, they have forced the main players in the energy sector to rally behind him. This circle has by necessity become more focused,
Western and Russian businessmen, diplomats and politicians said.

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on October 29, 2014, 20:49:10
Well, surprise!:

http://arstechnica.com/security/2014/10/research-links-massive-cyber-spying-ring-to-russia/

Quote
Research links massive cyber spying ring to Russia
Foregoing crime, the group targets European, US governments in 7-year spree.

by Robert Lemos - Oct 28 2014, 8:00pm EDT

A professional espionage group has targeted a variety of Eastern European governments and security organizations with attacks aimed at stealing political and state secrets, security firm FireEye stated in a report released on Tuesday.

The group, dubbed APT28 by the company, has targeted high-level officials in Eastern European countries such as Georgia, and security organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). While Russian and Ukrainian cybercriminal groups are known to conduct massive campaigns aimed at stealing money and financial information, APT28 focuses solely on political information and state secrets, according to FireEye.

The report argues that the group is closely tied to Russia and likely part of Moscow’s intelligence apparatus.

“This group, unlike the China-based threat actors we track, does not appear to conduct widespread intellectual property theft for economic gain,” FireEye stated in the report. “Nor have we observed the group steal and profit from financial account information.”

While linking specific actions on the Internet to people in the real world is difficult, FireEye used the report to make the case that a variety of espionage operations can be laid on the collective keyboards of APT28 and that the group is tightly linked to Russia.

This is not the first time the company has taken aim at nation-state cyber espionage. In 2013, Mandiant, now a subsidiary of FireEye, released a report on a Chinese group, APT1, which the company argued was part of the People's Liberation Army and which Mandiant researchers tied to attacks on more than 100 companies. The report has shaped much of the debate over online espionage between countries.

Attributing APT28’s efforts to Russia seems straightforward. More than half of the language setting in the compiled executable are Russian. Also, 96 percent of the malware samples analyzed by FireEye were compiled between Monday and Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm in the GMT+4 time zone, which matches Moscow. Such regularity suggests that the programmers were working during the regular work week in Moscow, the report argues.

The group behind the tools used by APT28 has frequently updated the software and focused on making the resulting binaries difficult for defenders to reverse engineer, according to the report. The technical components include a downloader, dubbed “SOURFACE” by FireEye, a program to give hackers remote access (“EVILTOSS”), and a group of modules to enhance functionality of the espionage software (“CHOPSTICK”). The modular nature of the program, similar to other espionage threats such as Flame and Duqu, allowing attackers to pick and choose the final functionality of any particular attack, as well as tailor the eventual malware to the target's environment.

The code’s sophistication and complexity suggests a professional development group, the company said.

“The coding practices evident in the group’s malware suggest both a high level of skill and an interest in complicating reverse engineering efforts,” the report stated.

For the most part, the analysis focuses on the group’s interests and how those interests are closely tied with the Russian government.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on October 30, 2014, 14:09:02
Russia's agressive attitude creates more blowback. While the military dimension will largely be notional (for now), the political dimension is quite large, both in optics and in harnessing more partners to a common task:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/blog/2014/10/29/nervous-swedes-eye-nato-membership/

Quote
Nervous Swedes Eye NATO Membership

Russia’s repeated little “visits” with subs and planes might finally be enough for famously neutral Sweden. For the first time, an opinion poll has found that the majority of respondents want to join the NATO alliance. According to the Financial Times:
 
More Swedes are in favour of joining Nato than are against for the first time in the Nordic country’s history, according to a poll just a week after a hunt for a suspected submarine in the waters outside Stockholm.
 
In a new poll by Novus for TV4 conducted over the weekend, 37 per cent of Swedes said they supported joining Nato while 36 per cent were against. Five months ago a poll showed 28 per cent in favour and 56 per cent against.
 
Sweden’s new center-left government came into office having made anti-NATO pledges, but the conversation seems to have shifted significantly since then. Not only have the Russians been (supposedly) poking around in Swedish waters; they’ve also entered Swedish airspace. As a similar incident over Estonia makes clear, the Russians are testing how much leeway they have in the Baltic after an easy win in Ukraine—but it appears they are finally getting some pushback.
 
If Sweden did start to explore NATO membership, the move would have regional repercussions:
 
The three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are particularly keen for Sweden and Finland to sign up to Nato, believing that their own security is weakened without them in the club. This is especially so for Sweden, whose island of Gotland lies in the middle of the Baltic sea and is seen as a tempting and vulnerable target should Russia wish to attack the Baltics.
 
Sweden and Finland have an informal understanding that they would only join Nato together. The issue of Nato membership is likely to feature heavily in Finland’s parliamentary elections due in the spring with Alex Stubb, the new prime minister, a big proponent of joining the military alliance.
 
Potentially, then, Russian aggression might be uniting the whole Baltic against Russia, which was not the case during the Cold War. Sweden was officially neutral during that conflict (though it often cooperated with NATO), while at times Finland was practically a ward of the Soviets.
 
But even if Sweden did join NATO, its military weakness would leave it vulnerable. Meanwhile, NATO’s European members are historically weak, even on paper, and even more so in the field. And above all, American posturing and retreat over the Ukraine crisis has called into question the alliance’s ability to deter Putin from further aggression in the Baltics.
 
It’s good to see some of the Europeans start taking this threat seriously. But Putin is bringing hard-power realities back to the fore, and should not be underestimated.

and some more on why Sweden is changing its attitudes:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/nato-says-russian-jets-bombers-circle-europe-in-unusual-incidents/2014/10/29/6098d964-5f97-11e4-827b-2d813561bdfd_story.html

Quote
NATO says Russian jets, bombers circle Europe in unusual incidents
By Michael Birnbaum October 29 at 4:24 PM 

MOSCOW — NATO said Wednesday that it had intercepted a large number of Russian aircraft flying close to European airspace in the past two days, in an “unusual” series of incidents that brought Russian bombers as far afield as Portugal.
 
The aircraft — at least 19 in all — offered reminders of Russian air power at a time of the worst relations between the West and Russia since the Cold War. Russian military aircraft have significantly increased their activity in Europe since the conflict in Ukraine began earlier this year, with NATO scrambling to intercept aircraft more than 100 times in 2014. But a NATO official said the scale of the latest incidents was the most provocative this year.
 
Over the Atlantic Ocean and the North, Black and Baltic seas, Russian bombers, fighter jets and tanker aircraft were detected flying in international airspace, NATO said. There were no incursions into national airspace, a violation of sovereignty that would have significantly amplified the seriousness of the four incidents, three of which took place on Wednesday.
 
“We’re raising it as an unusual level of activity,” said Lt. Col. Jay Janzen, a spokesman for NATO’s military command in Mons, Belgium. “The flights we’ve seen in the last 24 hours, the size of those flights and some of the flight plans are definitely unusual.”
 
U.S. officials regard the flights as a show of force by the Putin government. “It’s concerning because it’s moving in the wrong direction,” said one U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the air activity publicly. “It’s not helping to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. It’s not helping to improve relations between NATO and Russia. It’s not helping anybody.”
 
At least nineteen Russian aircraft, including fighter jets and bombers, have been intercepted in four waves over Europe yesterday and today. Smaller-scale incidents have also increased this year, approximately tripling from the same period in 2013, Janzen said.
 
In at least one of the four incidents, the aircraft had switched off their transponders and had not filed flight plans with civilian air traffic controllers. That means that civilian air traffic control cannot track them, potentially creating a risk for civilian planes.
 
That incident took place around 3:00 a.m. in Western Europe on Wednesday, when four Tu-95 long-range strategic nuclear bombers and four Il-78 tanker aircraft flew over the Norwegian Sea. Norwegian F-16 fighter jets scrambled to intercept them. Six of the planes returned to Russia, but two of the bombers skirted the Norwegian coast, flew past Britain — sending Typhoon fighter jets to scramble in response — and then finally looped west of Spain and Portugal, attracting Portuguese F-16s. Then the two bombers appeared to return to Russia, Janzen said.
 
The Tu-95 bombers are not commonly seen close to Europe, Janzen said. Nor are the MiG-31 fighter jets that were intercepted along with other aircraft above the Baltic Sea in two separate incidents Tuesday and Wednesday. It was not immediately clear whether the two incidents above the Baltic represented the same group of seven planes entering and departing a Russian military base at Kaliningrad.
 
There was no immediate reaction from the Russian government.
 
Fighter jets from Norway, Britain, Portugal, Turkey, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Sweden were involved in responding to the Russian aircraft, Janzen said. Finland and Sweden are not members of NATO, and they have long refrained from joining the defensive alliance, which was formed after World War II as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.
 
But military incidents with Russia this year have caused both countries to start to reevaluate their positions. Most recently, the Swedish military last week spent several days searching a vast territory for an unidentified underwater craft suspected to be Russian. Last month, Sweden said two Russian military planes had violated its airspace.

A Novus opinion poll released Tuesday found for the first time that more Swedes favored joining NATO than opposed it.
 
The most recent violation of NATO airspace was last week, when a Russian spy plane flew almost 2,000 feet into Estonian airspace. This year, NATO increased its air patrols based in the Baltics from four to 16 jets, a measure of the newly hot confrontation between the two military juggernauts.
 
The incidents appear to have set European militaries on edge this week. British fighter jets were scrambled Wednesday to bring a civilian Antonov cargo jet into a London airport; it stopped responding to radio calls from air traffic controllers while flying over the British capital. That caused a supersonic boom that was audible across a large stretch of southeastern England.
 
Missy Ryan contributed to this report.
 
Michael Birnbaum is The Post’s Moscow bureau chief. He previously served as the Berlin correspondent and an education reporter.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on November 05, 2014, 17:22:31
How long till Russia takes advantage of this worsening situation below to bite off another piece of Georgia much like the way South Ossetia became a Russian satellite?

Defense News (http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141105/DEFREG01/311050026/Power-Struggle-Plunges-Georgia-Turmoil?odyssey=mod_sectionstories)

Quote
Power Struggle Plunges Georgia In Turmoil
Nov. 5, 2014 - 03:29PM   |   By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TBILISI, GEORGIA — Georgia on Wednesday plunged into political crisis after its youthful prime minister sacked his hugely popular defence minister and the foreign minister resigned in protest.

In the ensuing political turmoil in the pro-Western Caucasus nation, Irakli Alasania — who was fired in a surprise move on Tuesday — said his Free Democrats party was leaving the ruling coalition, robbing Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, 32, of a parliamentary majority.

“Free Democrats will no longer be in the coalition,” the photogenic ex-defence minister, 40, told reporters.

The ruling Georgian Dream coalition was left with only 73 seats in the 150-member legislature after Free Democrats’ 10-member-strong parliamentary faction quit.

Observers said the row had all the trappings of a bitter power struggle in which Garibashvili got rid of his charismatic, influential opponent.

(...SNIPPED)

Shortly after he was sacked, Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said that she and her four deputies were resigning “to show what threats the country is facing.”

Alexi Petriashvili, the minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration and a close ally of Alasania, also resigned in protest on Tuesday.

“Dictatorship is coming to Georgia, our democracy is in danger,” Petriashvili said late on Tuesday.

Georgia’s pro-Western President Giorgi Margvelashvili denounced the “political confrontation that endangers the functioning of state institutions and the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration.”

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 07, 2014, 18:57:38
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Financial Times is an article that suggests that the sanctions are working:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/6c059328-666d-11e4-9c0c-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3IQQ7jgpE
Quote
(http://digitalcontentnext.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Financial-Times-Member-Logo.png)
Plunging rouble raises spectre of fresh financial crisis for Russia

Kathrin Hille in Moscow, Roman Olearchyk in Kiev

November 7, 2014

Russia faces the risk of financial instability, the country’s central bank warned, after dramatic gyrations in the currency amid renewed tension in Ukraine revived fears of a currency crisis.

(http://im.ft-static.com/content/images/91e790a0-b8a0-43e3-bbaf-ccea4228047c.img)

The warning came after a day of huge swings in the rouble and capped a weekwhen the currency fell 8 per cent, its biggest weekly drop in 11 years.

The rouble is a casualty of falling oil prices, which have plunged more than 25 per cent since mid-June, geopolitical tensions over Ukraine and sanctions that have shut some of the country’s biggest companies out of western capital markets.

For many ordinary Russians, the currency’s slide has evoked painful memories of the financial crises that rocked Russia in 2008-9 and 1998. Analysts said if the rouble’s fall continued it could undermine President Vladimir Putin’s popularity, which currently stands at record highs.

The Bank of Russia said the past few days had seen”extreme demand” for dollars, which could lead to “the creation of risks for financial stability”.

The central bank said it stood ready to increase its foreign exchange interventions “at any moment”, and use other tools in its arsenal, to support the rouble.

It also defended a decision to let the currency float freely, a move which was rigorously stress-tested on Friday when the rouble initially fell as much as 4 per cent to a record low against the dollar and breached the threshold of 60 to the euro for the first time.

The currency later pared its losses and swung up more than 2 per cent against the dollar on the day, after speculation that the central bank would take action to halt the crisis, before falling back again.

The Bank of Russia said Friday’s volatility was part of an adjustment process following Wednesday’ policy changes. “The sharp weakening of the rouble that started late Thursday was caused by a new round of the conflict in Ukraine, fears of new sanctions and the falling oil price,” said brokerage BCS Prime in a research note.

“However, households’ expectations of rouble devaluation are contributing more than ever to the . . . fall these days.”

Kiev said on Friday that dozens of Russian tanks and fighters had recently entered the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine. Fighting in the seven-month conflict which has claimed more than 4,000 lives had subsided after fierce August battles gave way to a September ceasefire agreement.

But the so-called Minsk accords started to unravel swiftly after separatists held an election on Sunday that was considered illegitimate by Kiev and the west.

The central bank said on Wednesday it would sell no more than $350m a day to support the rouble, arguing that from now on market forces would be key in determining the exchange rate.

The bank did, however, stick to its commitment to make unlimited one-off interventions if financial stability was at risk.

At Credit Europe Bank, a midsize lender in Moscow, customers were queueing at lunchtime to withdraw foreign currency or buy dollars, while the branch manager tried to persuade them to open rouble deposits instead. The lender, and many other smaller Russian banks, have started requiring customers who want to buy dollars to order them at least one day in advance.

The rouble’s slide has raised concerns over whether Russian companies and banks can service their external debt. Some $30bn is due for redemption before the end of the year by Russian corporates and about $10bn by Russian banks.

In total, Russia’s corporate sector has $422bn in foreign currency debt and the country’s banks have $192bn, the central bank said.

(http://im.ft-static.com/content/images/63d1947a-6674-11e4-9c0c-00144feabdc0.img)

The corporate borrowers due to make big repayments by the end of the year are mostly state companies with a steady stream of foreign currency revenues from exports of oil and gas.

For that reason, analysts say the rouble volatility should not affect their ability to service their debt in the near term.

But an executive at a foreign investment bank in Moscow said: “The picture is more worrying for the banks.”

For Russia’s fiscal situation, the cheaper rouble against the dollar is less worrying as it helps mitigate the steady slide in the oil price, which has led to a fall in oil and gas-based revenues.

Moscow equities markets were also under heavy pressure. The dollar-denominated RTS stock index hit its lowest level since 2009, falling below 1,000 points.

Russia’s 10-year sovereign debt yields rose 15 basis points to 10.3 per cent, making its borrowing the most expensive since November 2009. The cost of insuring Russian debt against default returned to its highest level of the year. Credit default swaps for Russia were up 9 basis points to 286 basis points.

With additional reporting by Elaine Moore in London


The real hero in all this may be an accountant.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on November 07, 2014, 19:33:57
It's enough to give somebody a heart attack....
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on November 08, 2014, 08:18:07
Here is a good preview of what we are really up against. Our thinking about defense and security needs to be updated:

www.naa.mil.lv/~/media/NAA/AZPC/Publikacijas/PP%2002-2014.ashx
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on November 08, 2014, 09:52:46
Here is a good preview of what we are really up against. Our thinking about defense and security needs to be updated:

www.naa.mil.lv/~/media/NAA/AZPC/Publikacijas/PP%2002-2014.ashx
Good piece - milpoints inbound for sharing.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MCG on November 10, 2014, 03:35:34
More confirmation that all is not well ... Rather, some of the posturing is reminiscent of that which contributed to the launch of the First World War.
Quote
Study reveals Russia's near misses in Europe
BBC NEWS
10 Nov 2014
By Jonathan Marcus
BBC diplomatic correspondent


The growing strains between Russia and the West prompted by the Ukraine crisis are now sending ripples of military tension across Europe.

Nato has responded to Russia's incursions into Ukraine by stepping up its ties with Kiev and bolstering air patrols and exercises with its eastern and central European members.

Russia in turn has decided to pursue a more active, many might say a more aggressive, military policy of its own, returning to the sorts of flights and activities from the Cold War years that were used to regularly test out Nato defences.

The European Leadership Network, a London-based think tank, has produced a detailed study of this more assertive Russian activity.

Entitled Dangerous Brinkmanship: Close Military Encounters Between Russia and the West in 2014, it chronicles almost 40 specific incidents that have occurred during the past eight months.

It says these "add up to a highly disturbing picture of violations of national airspace, emergency scrambles, narrowly avoided mid-air collisions, close encounters at sea and other dangerous actions happening on a regular basis over a very wide geographical area".

Apart from routine or near routine encounters, the report identifies "11 serious incidents of a more aggressive or unusually provocative nature, bringing a higher level risk of escalation".

These include harassment of reconnaissance planes, close over-flights over warships and Russian "mock bombing raid" missions.

It also singles out "three high-risk incidents which," in its view, "carried a high probability of causing casualties or a direct military confrontation".

The fact that one of these was a narrowly avoided collision between an SAS civil airliner taking off from Copenhagen and a Russian reconnaissance plane shows that these are not just military games.

There is a very real risk of calamity.

The Russian military aircraft was not using a transponder to identify its position.

The second high-risk incident involved the abduction of an Estonian security service operative from a border post on Estonian (and hence Nato) territory.

He was later taken to Moscow and accused of espionage.

Then of course there was the major submarine hunt by the Swedish authorities last month, with the Swedes warning that they were ready to use force to bring any submerged vessel to the surface.

The danger, the report indicates, comes from both sides.

"The mix of more aggressive Russian posturing and the readiness of Western forces to show resolve, increases the risk of unintended escalation and the danger of losing control over events."

The European Leadership Network makes three broad recommendations.

It says that "the Russian leadership should urgently re-evaluate the costs and risks of continuing its more assertive military posture, and western diplomacy should be aimed at persuading Russia to move in this direction".

It says that "all sides should exercise military and political restraint".

And it says that "all sides must improve military-to-military communication and transparency".

There is probably much that is sensible here.

But given the unresolved tensions over Ukraine, the overall trajectory of current Russian foreign policy and the pressures coming from those in Nato who feel most threatened, like the Poles, this pattern of behaviour risks becoming the new norm.

Indeed the growing frequency and scale of Nato military exercises in eastern and central Europe is only likely to encourage the Russians to bolster their own military manoeuvres.

Procedures and operational patterns from the Cold War may need to be re-learnt.

We are not back in the 1950s.

But in some ways the dangers of bravado leading to miscalculation or of genuine error make matters today every bit as dangerous.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29956277
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: tomahawk6 on November 10, 2014, 08:37:07
The crisis in the Ukraine is Russia's fault.They could have stayed out of that mess,but instead chose to take advantage of the crisis takeover the Ukraine.It hasnt gone well for Putin.Short of an all out invasion the crisis will continue until one side gives in.Putin would be well advised to turn his attention to Siberia as China is poised to grab more valuable land there.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 10, 2014, 09:09:35
1. The crisis in the Ukraine is Russia's fault.They could have stayed out of that mess,but instead chose to take advantage of the crisis takeover the Ukraine.

2. It hasnt gone well for Putin.Short of an all out invasion the crisis will continue until one side gives in.

3. Putin would be well advised to turn his attention to Siberia as China is poised to grab more valuable land there.


I agree wholly with your first two points. The Ukrainians are not, themselves, blameless, but Putin made an internal problem into a crisis.

The Chinese are unlikely to "grab" anything, but they will - already are I believe - assiduously undermine Russian sovereignty in the regions, and I emphasize the plural because I think the Chinese see Siberia as something other than a monolithic single entity. My guess is that the Chinese aim to have sundry "independent" Siberian republics emerge from out of Russia and into China's orbit.

How far does China want to go in "liberating" Asia from European domination?

(http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/images/time/russia/c-russia.jpg)

There are three parts to Russia, Western (grey) Central (white on this map) and Eastern (also grey). My sense is that China sees the natural division to be in the middle of Central Russia, on the Yenisey River line. It helps that there are massive oil and gas fields in the parts of Russia (everything East of the Yenisey) that China would like to see as "independent" republics.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 10, 2014, 12:42:21
As a major oil exporter, I'm not sure Canadians should be cheering this.


Falling oil prices are, indeed, slowing the Canadian economy, but, see this (https://army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,20359.msg1337133.html#msg1337133) and, also this: "Falling oil prices, sanctions push Russia to brink of recession" (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/russian-central-bank-abandons-trading-band-floats-ruble/article21518361/).
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Dimsum on November 12, 2014, 08:29:40
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-12/defence-monitors-russian-naval-vessels-north-of-australia/5887134

Interesting, but not entirely surprising, as the G20 is going on this weekend in Brisbane. 
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: YZT580 on November 12, 2014, 15:48:11
Short of an all out invasion the crisis will continue until one side gives in

NATO sources report large movements of tanks, mobile artillery and significant numbers of troops identified as Russian, into eastern Ukraine.  Russia of course denies any involvement but that is only for the two people left here in NA that actually what they say.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on November 13, 2014, 23:14:07
While the article is about the Stasi, it is important to remember the Stasi was one of the tools of the KGB to maintain their control over the Soviet Empire, and as we read in the article, the KGB and now FSB is utilizing many of the tactics developed by the Stasi:

http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/11/12/what-happened-to-east-germanys-brutally-effective-secret-police-after-the-wall-fell/?print=1

Quote
What Happened to East Germany’s Brutally Effective Secret Police After the Wall Fell?
Posted By Robert Wargas On November 12, 2014 @ 3:09 pm In Communism,Europe,Evil,History,Ideology,International,Marxism,Psychology,Radicalism,Religion,Sex,Spying | 19 Comments

On November 9, 2006, as the free world celebrated the seventeenth anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s demise, an 83-year-old man died in a peaceful slumber at his home in the German capital city. The man was Markus Wolf, who during the Cold War led the foreign-intelligence section of East Germany’s secret-police apparatus: the Ministry for State Security (Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit), known colloquially as “the Stasi.” The Stasi’s most renowned spymaster, he controlled thousands of agents, whose purpose was to infiltrate important Western institutions and government positions. Often mistaken as the inspiration for John le Carre’s shadowy Karla character, Wolf for years remained a mystery to Western intelligence services, who didn’t even have a picture of him until the late 1970s—several decades into his career. Historians have marveled at his success in leading the Stasi’s foreign wing, known as the HVA, or Hauptverwaltung Aufklaerung. Perhaps his most well known accomplishment is having one of his agents, Gunter Guillaume, become a trusted aide to Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor.

Seven years after Wolf’s death and twenty-five years after the Wall’s, the West still doesn’t appreciate the breadth and depth of the Stasi’s brutality. (The KGB still reigns in the popular imagination as the ultimate secret-police force.) Formed after the Second World War in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany, the Stasi grew to become the most potently effective Eastern bloc intelligence organization. They possessed a more impressive informant network than even the KGB. When East Germany crumbled, the Stasi employed upwards of 190,000 unofficial informants. By 1989, approximately one out of every 90 East German citizens was a Stasi informant. Referred to as inoffizielle Mitarbeiter (“unofficial collaborators”), most were simply ordinary German citizens, tasked with reporting everything they could about possible (real or imagined) anti-regime activity, as well as details about family and friends. Even children were involved in spying on their parents.

The Stasi’s methods of controlling the East German population were often wickedly creative. Even among those fairly knowledgeable of the German language, the word “Zersetzung,” used in a political context, is likely unfamiliar. Translated variously as “degradation,” “decomposition,” “disruptiveness,” or “disintegration,” the word is most often used in a biological sense. When it comes to espionage, Zersetzung refers to the Stasi’s practice of destroying a target’s personal life. The methods, however, were much more subtle than the word implies. The Stasi perfected their ability to torture people indirectly—a kind of psychological death by a thousand cuts. Zersetzung, for instance, often involved breaking into the homes of those considered enemies of the East German government. Stasi agents would then begin a series of bizarre and unorthodox moves, designed to delicately frighten and manipulate the target into anxiety and paranoia. This might include taking pictures off the wall or moving items in the house: small, often nearly imperceptible offenses that former officers said would demoralize the opposition by invading their private spaces without overtly threatening or harming anyone. One tactic, for instance, involved sending dildos or vibrators to the target’s spouse. Consider how finely tuned must be someone’s manipulative ability in order to think of such schemes.

As an important side note, the Russian FSB, successor to the KGB, has continued Zersetzung as a useful tactic against certain Westerners. Luke Harding, a correspondent for The Guardian, has documented the Russians’ harassment of British and American diplomats. Employing a strategy eerily redolent of Stasi activity, the FSB has broken into targets’ homes, moved certain items, and even purposely triggered alarms. The U.S State Department has acknowledged that “home intrusions” have become common, and one State Department cable was clear that “we have no doubt that this activity originates in the FSB.” It ought not to be forgotten that Vladimir Putin, in his salad days as a KGB officer, was stationed in the East German city of Dresden.

Since there was no Cold War analogue of the Nuremberg trials, nor any anti-Communist version of Simon Wiesenthal, it’s understandable to ask what happened to members of the Stasi after the East German regime disintegrated. Wolf fled to Russia, which denied him asylum, and he was eventually caught while traveling through Bavaria. He was charged with treason, though his sentence was suspended. In logic that one suspects would never be applied to Nazis, it was argued that Wolf’s activities were legal at the time he performed them.

Most other ex-Stasi agents simply re-entered German society, though not always smoothly, along with all the ex-politicos, border guards, and other Communist functionaries. Reporting not long after the Wall fell, Steven Emerson discovered that

With the disbanding of the Stasi, 85,000 full-time officers lost their jobs virtually overnight. No more than 10,000 have since found gainful employment, most of them in various Government ministries, including 2,000 in the Ministry of the Interior, which formerly oversaw the Stasi. The rest have joined the growing ranks of East Germany’s unemployed; some get by on standard unemployment benefits, while others receive no Government compensation at all. Many are embittered at finding themselves excluded, even ostracized, by their fellow citizens.

A quarter century on, many of them are not the slightest bit embarrassed by their past work for the secret police; on the contrary, they are boldly proud. There even exists an organization, the amusingly named Society for Legal and Humanitarian Support, dedicated to assisting ex-Stasi officers and other former East German bureaucrats. For them, the fall of the Berlin Wall was a tragedy rather than a triumph for liberty. “What happened that day has been a burden to people like us,” Hans Bauer, chairman of the group, told Reuters in 2009.

Though the post-Communist German government shied away from hiring too many ex-Stasi officers for state positions, pilfered documents from Wikileaks show that the German government does employ them in (of all places) the federally administered archive of Stasi records—a revelation that caused some dismay in German society. Many other ex-Stasi personnel eventually went on to careers in the private sector. After the Wall fell, it was, oddly enough, the newly reunified German government that urged corporations to absorb former Communist encryption experts, fearing they would otherwise be driven to aid Western enemies with their skills. One German company, Rohde & Schwarz SIT GmbH, a supplier of encryption and communications technology to NATO, employs plenty of former Stasi codebreakers.

Of course, most ex-Stasi employees are not figures like Wolf and Guillaume. They did not have careers full of secret intrigue and romantic exploits. Most did not kill, torture, or even tap phones. They were probably paper-pushers of one sort or another—doing their routine jobs to support families or, sadly, to avoid the suspicions of those for whom they worked. Still, it was Hannah Arendt who so ably explained what paper-pushers are capable of, and how evil is more likely to be living next door than lurking in the closet.

Editor’s note: this is part 5 in an ongoing series exploring the history of dictators, tyrants, criminals and their evil ideologies. See the previous installments: Part 1: “Why It’s OK to Be Intrigued by Evil Dictators“ and Part 2: “Does Everybody Want Freedom?” Part 3: “Like a Serial Killer, Mao Zedong Manipulated Everyone,” Part 4: ”Mike Tyson: He Has a New TV Show, But Does Anyone Care?.” Have ideas for who you’d like to see Robert explore next? Get in touch on Twitter: @RobertWargas and@DaveSwindle

Article printed from PJ Lifestyle: http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle

URL to article: http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/11/12/what-happened-to-east-germanys-brutally-effective-secret-police-after-the-wall-fell/
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 16, 2014, 10:40:53
From the Globe & Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harper-and-g20-leaders-confront-putin-problem-at-australia-meet/article21603599/#dashboard/follows/):
Quote
Stephen Harper told Russian President Vladimir Putin flatly that he needs "to get out of Ukraine," when the two met at a Group of 20 summit of major economies in Brisbane.

A spokesman for the Canadian Prime Minister relayed the details of the encounter and, according to director of communications Jason MacDonald, "Mr. Putin did not respond positively."

(....)

Mr. Harper's encounter with Mr. Putin came Saturday morning when the Canadian Prime Minister was speaking to a group of leaders.

The Russian Leader stuck out his hand.

Mr. Harper accepted the gesture but said to the Russian Leader: "I guess I'll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you, you need to get out of Ukraine."‎ ....


I think Mr Putin is rather like the man in the fable who only has a hammer ... eventually every problem looks like a nail. Mr Putin's "hammer" is force, aggression ... and he sees, I think, every problem as being best addressed by force.

This creates two problems, in my opinion:

     1. While no one really wants to fight Russia, no one, not even Australia, Belgium, Canada and Denmark and so on, is afraid to fight Russia. Russia is a giant but it is a stupid, shambling giant ... big feet and fists but
         not a real threat; and

     2. China is "eating Russia's lunch." Chinese diplomacy is delicate and nuanced ... clever and it accomplishes China's aims. Russian 'diplomacy' (AKA bullying) just drives it farther and farther away from countries that might be good
         trading partners and into the arms of China ... and China is NOT Russia's friend.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on November 21, 2014, 23:06:56
Buying and hoarding gold is the usual response to real or preceived economic calamity. I think one question to be asked here is does Russia see a calamity coming, or do they intend to start one? China's gold holdings are interesting as well:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-putin-buying-much-gold-210532064.html

Quote
Why Putin is buying so much gold
By Everett Rosenfeld November 18, 2014 4:05 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin is developing a taste for gold (CEC:Commodities Exchange Centre: @GC.1).

Wih all of its income from selling oil (Intercontinental Exchange Europe: @LCO.1), Russia is diversifying its reserves by buying massive amounts of gold, said William Rhind, CEO of the World Gold Trust Services.

 Of all the central banks that make their reserve actions public, Russia has been the "largest, most active" gold accumulator, he explained. Still, Rhind said, the "elephant in the room" is how much gold China is buying, as Beijing does not publish these figures.

A recent report from the World Gold Council showed that many central banks, including Russia's , have beefed up their gold reserves. This investment, the report suggested, was "driven by a number of factors including a continued diversification away from the U.S. dollar and the backdrop of ongoing geopolitical tensions."

 Read More Central banks: The new gold bugs?

Still, Rhind explained that the move towards gold buying does not represent a new trend for global currencies.

 "I don't think it's moving to a de facto gold standard, it's just simply about diversification," he said. "In many ways they view it as being not too dissimilar from why anybody would own gold."

 More than half of all the gold added to central bank reserve assets in the third quarter was purchased by Russia (55 of about 96 metric tons), the World Gold Council report said.

Read More Technical move in gold ETF could be short-term bullish


In total, Russia's central bank has bought about 150 metric tons of gold so far this year, Bank of Russia Chairwoman Elvira Nabiullina said on Tuesday
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on November 22, 2014, 08:54:12
Of course we do ... all sane people are "seeking regime change" in Russia ...

... see the story, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com//news/world/russian-foreign-minister-accuses-west-of-seeking-regime-change/article21717126/?cmpid=rss1&click=sf_globe#dashboard/follows/
Quote
(http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/media/www/images/flag/gam-masthead.png)
Russian foreign minister accuses West of seeking ‘regime change’

Polina Devitt MOSCOW — Reuters

Published Saturday, Nov. 22 2014

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West on Saturday of trying to use sanctions imposed on Moscow in the Ukraine crisis to seek “regime change” in Russia.

His comments stepped up Moscow’s war of words with the United States and the European Union in their worst diplomatic standoff since the Cold War ended.

“As for the concept behind to the use of coercive measures, the West is making clear it does not want to force Russia to change policy but wants to secure regime change,” Tass news agency quoted Mr. Lavrov as telling a meeting of the advisory Foreign and Defence Policy Council in Moscow.

He said that when international sanctions had been used against other countries such as Iran and North Korea, they had been designed not to harm the national economy.

“Now public figures in Western countries say there is a need to impose sanctions that will destroy the economy and cause public protests,” Mr. Lavrov said.

His comments followed remarks on Thursday in which President Vladimir Putin said Moscow must guard against a “colour revolution” in Russia, referring to protests that toppled leaders in other former Soviet republics.

Western sanctions have limited access to foreign capital for some of Russia’s largest companies and banks, hit the defence and energy industries, and imposed asset freezes and travel bans on some of Putin’s allies.

The measures have aggravated an economic downturn, which has also been worsened by a fall in global oil prices and has helped cause a nearly 30-per-cent slide in the rouble against the dollar since the start of the year.

Mr. Putin’s popularity has soared in Russia since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March.

He says Western powers were behind the overthrow of a Moscow-backed president in Ukraine in February after months of street protests, but the West blames Moscow for the crisis.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Kiev on Friday termed Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine as “unacceptable”. He said Moscow must abide by a Sept. 5 ceasefire deal, which has failed to end a conflict that has killed more than 4,300 people since mid-April.

Mr. Biden urged Moscow to pull soldiers out of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are fighting government forces, though Moscow denies supporting the rebels with troops and weapons.


Smart Russians, and there must be a few, should be looking for regime change, too - a change to a regime that is friendly to the West. The alternative, it seems to me, is that they will get a regime change imposed by China.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: George Wallace on November 22, 2014, 11:14:56
Reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from Bloomberg.com:

LINK (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-20/russia-s-war-games-spill-secrets-stiffen-nato-resolve.html)
Quote

Russian War Games Spill Secrets, Spur Neighbors; 'Scared the Hell Out of NATO' (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-20/russia-s-war-games-spill-secrets-stiffen-nato-resolve.html)

By Leon Mangasarian and Ott Ummelas  Nov 21, 2014 7:19 AM ET
Bloomberg News

Russian jets probing NATO airspace and supersized war drills are spilling Kremlin military secrets and scaring European nations into stiffening their armed forces.

Allied jets “have been scrambled (http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_115033.htm) over 400 times” this year to intercept Russian planes -- a 50 percent rise over 2013, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (http://search.bloomberg.com/search?q=Jens%20Stoltenberg&site=wnews&client=wnews&proxystylesheet=wnews&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&filter=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1&partialfields=-wnnis:NOAVSYND&lr=-lang_ja) said yesterday. A report by the European Leadership Network, a London-based security research group, termed the incidents “a highly disturbing picture of violations of national airspace” and “narrowly avoided mid-air collisions.”

Yet there are benefits for NATO.

“Clearly, every time we come into contact with Russian forces and every time we see their tactics and how they deploy, we do learn about them,” U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove (http://search.bloomberg.com/search?q=Philip%20Breedlove&site=wnews&client=wnews&proxystylesheet=wnews&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&filter=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1&partialfields=-wnnis:NOAVSYND&lr=-lang_ja), the 28-member NATO’s top military commander, said in Tallinn on Nov. 19. “They are just happening more often and occasionally, the size of the activities is larger.”

A worsening standoff is pitting Europe and the U.S. against Russia over Ukraine in the biggest crisis since the Cold War’s end 25 years ago. Even German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (http://search.bloomberg.com/search?q=Frank-Walter%20Steinmeier&site=wnews&client=wnews&proxystylesheet=wnews&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&filter=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1&partialfields=-wnnis:NOAVSYND&lr=-lang_ja) -- a persistent proponent of dialog -- said on Nov. 18 after shuttle diplomacy in Kiev and Moscow, that he sees little reason for optimism.

‘Scared’ NATO

“The rapid mobilization of 20,000 to 40,000 Russian troops at the Ukrainian border scared the hell out of NATO,” Karl-Heinz Kamp (http://search.bloomberg.com/search?q=Karl-Heinz%20Kamp&site=wnews&client=wnews&proxystylesheet=wnews&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&filter=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1&partialfields=-wnnis:NOAVSYND&lr=-lang_ja), academic director at the German government’s Federal Academy for Security Policy in Berlin, said by phone.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (http://search.bloomberg.com/search?q=Vladimir%20Putin&site=wnews&client=wnews&proxystylesheet=wnews&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&filter=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1&partialfields=-wnnis:NOAVSYND&lr=-lang_ja) said the U.S. wants “not to humiliate, but to subjugate” Russia, in remarks at a Nov. 18 meeting of his People’s Front party supporters in Moscow.

“We had such brilliant politicians like Nikita Khrushchev (http://search.bloomberg.com/search?q=Nikita%20Khrushchev&site=wnews&client=wnews&proxystylesheet=wnews&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&filter=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1&partialfields=-wnnis:NOAVSYND&lr=-lang_ja), who hammered the desk with his shoe at the United Nations,” Putin said in an Oct. 24 speech (http://valdaiclub.com/valdai_club/73300.html). “And the whole world, primarily the United States, and NATO thought: this Nikita is best left alone, he might just go and fire a missile.”

Monitoring drills and Russian aircraft flying along NATO or Finnish and Swedish airspace is yielding intelligence on command and control, communications and tactics, said Lukasz Kulesa, research director of the ELN in London and former deputy head of Poland’s National Security Bureau that advises the Polish president. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden upgraded (http://www.aco.nato.int/finland-and-sweden-signing-a-memorandum-of-understanding-with-nato-for-operational-and-logistic-support.aspx) their alliance ties in September.

‘Complex Deployments’

“A Russian mission that sent planes on the same day to the Baltic, the North Sea and the Black Sea tells us what Russian capabilities have become,” Kulesa said by phone. “It gives us a much better understanding of Russian readiness and their ability to perform more complex deployments.”

Ruslan Pukhov (http://search.bloomberg.com/search?q=Ruslan%20Pukhov&site=wnews&client=wnews&proxystylesheet=wnews&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&filter=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1&partialfields=-wnnis:NOAVSYND&lr=-lang_ja), director of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (http://www.cast.ru/eng/) and a member of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Public Council, said equipment being used in drills and missions is well-known to NATO.

“Russia is not at risk of revealing any secret information to NATO by conducting so many intensive drills and flights,” Pukhov said in an interview. “Russia can keep real secrets quite well, as proven by the surprise of the Crimea operation.”

Raised Spending

After suffering initial setbacks (http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21566006-firing-russias-defence-minister-may-be-setback-military-reform-reform-and-be-sacked) in the 2008 Georgia War, Russia has increased spending on its armed forces. The Kremlin increased military spending by 50 percent since 2005 while NATO has cut spending by 20 percent, according to NATO chief Stoltenberg.

“In 2008, Russian generals commanded their soldiers from Moscow in the war by running outside the Defense Ministry and calling them by cellphone. The lessons were learnt,” said Pukhov, who co-authored a book about military aspects of the Ukraine crisis titled Brothers Armed.

NATO, at its Sept. 4-5 Wales summit, shored up its eastern defenses against Russia as the U.S., which makes up two-thirds of alliance military spending, urged European allies to pay more. The alliance agreed to rotate more troops through eastern Europe and to set up a 5,000-soldier rapid-reaction force.

The Baltic states are bolstering their armed forces with Estonia vowing more troops on its border with Russia after a security officer was snatched and taken to Moscow.

NATO Target

Estonia, which already meets NATO’s military spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product, plans to raise spending to 2.05 percent next year. Latvia and Lithuania -- both now spending less than 1 percent -- aim to reach the goal by 2020.

Alliance states including Denmark, Poland and Germany also plan to increase defense spending, though in the case of Germany only from 2016. Germany spends about 1.3 percent of gross domestic product on the military.

Denmark is poised to spend more than $4 billion in its biggest air defense upgrade on either Lockheed Martin Corp. (http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/LMT:US)’s F-35, ’s F-18 Super Hornet or Typhoon fighters, built by the Eurofighter consortium of [url=http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/AIR:FP]BAE Systems Plc, Airbus Group NV (http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/BA:USBoeing Co.[/url) and Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA (http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/FNC:IM).

Poland, which shares borders with both Russia and Ukraine, will choose suppliers for helicopters and an air-defense system within a year as it begins a $27 billion program to overhaul the military and replace Soviet-era military equipment, Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak (http://search.bloomberg.com/search?q=Tomasz%20Siemoniak&site=wnews&client=wnews&proxystylesheet=wnews&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&filter=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1&partialfields=-wnnis:NOAVSYND&lr=-lang_ja) said in an Oct. 24 interview. It’s also bringing forward purchases of attack helicopters, drones and missiles for Lockheed F-16 jets.

‘Wake-Up Call’

Charly Salonius-Pasternak (http://search.bloomberg.com/search?q=Charly%20Salonius-Pasternak&site=wnews&client=wnews&proxystylesheet=wnews&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&filter=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1&partialfields=-wnnis:NOAVSYND&lr=-lang_ja), a security expert at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki, termed Russia’s moves “quite a wake-up call” that makes it impossible for Finnish or Swedish politicians “who want to be taken seriously” to dismiss Russia’s buildup as low-level rearming.

“Russia’s armed forces can do things that they couldn’t do 10 years ago,” he said in an interview. “Russia has a much better ability to transport large units, long distances and have them arrive combat ready.”

That’s triggered a debate (http://www.the-american-interest.com/2014/11/17/putin-targets-the-scandinavians/) in both Finland and Sweden on whether to join NATO.

Putin, whose military has taken control of or holds territory that under international law belongs to Moldova and Georgia as well as annexing Ukraine’s Crimea in March, noted in his Oct. 24 Valdai speech that when Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck first appeared in the European arena in the 19th century “they found him dangerous because he spoke his mind.”

“I also always try to say what I think,” Putin said.



To contact the reporters on this story: Leon Mangasarian in Berlin at lmangasarian@bloomberg.net; Ott Ummelas in Tallinn at oummelas@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net James G. Neuger



More on LINK (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-20/russia-s-war-games-spill-secrets-stiffen-nato-resolve.html)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: chanman on November 24, 2014, 23:47:45



I think Mr Putin is rather like the man in the fable who only has a hammer ... eventually every problem looks like a nail. Mr Putin's "hammer" is force, aggression ... and he sees, I think, every problem as being best addressed by force.

This creates two problems, in my opinion:

     1. While no one really wants to fight Russia, no one, not even Australia, Belgium, Canada and Denmark and so on, is afraid to fight Russia. Russia is a giant but it is a stupid, shambling giant ... big feet and fists but
         not a real threat; and

     2. China is "eating Russia's lunch." Chinese diplomacy is delicate and nuanced ... clever and it accomplishes China's aims. Russian 'diplomacy' (AKA bullying) just drives it farther and farther away from countries that might be good
         trading partners and into the arms of China ... and China is NOT Russia's friend.

I disagree that Putin's hammer is force - as a career KGB man, I think his preferred tool is intimidation - much like it is for organized crime. The periodic aggression serves as a reminder to other neighbours to pay their protection fees and to weaken neighbours that start to get uppity and a little too cozy with other powers.

I'd love to see an analysis of the Kremlin not by diplomats, but by experts in organized crime. I'm sure it would be illuminating.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on December 01, 2014, 23:29:15
We might be in for a wild ride. I have seen a few predictions that oil might drop radically (the lowest prediction is it could drop to $30/barrel), but the consensus seems to be around the $70/barrel mark. This would wreak havoc with our oil industry (particularly the oil sands), as well as high tech tracking and shale oil extraction in the US, but Russia could suffer even more:

http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/10/03/how-russias-debt-and-currency-markets-could-spiral-into-crisis/

Quote
How Russia’s Debt and Currency Markets Could Spiral into Crisis
By  MICHAEL J. CASEY

This week’s rumor that Russia would impose capital controls to protect a plummeting ruble has dissipated – with no less an authority than Vladimir Putin dismissing it as unfounded earlier Thursday.

But that doesn’t mean the Russian President won’t eventually have a major financial crisis on his hands, or that he won’t have to resort to even more draconian measures to contain it than limiting cross-border fund flows. It will just take longer for that crisis to gestate than was implied by the market’s selloff.

Fact 1: Russia had $465 billion in foreign reserves as of the end of August, the fifth largest stash in the world. That can buy the central bank an awful lot of rubles to prop up the currency.

Fact 2:Russia had $524 billion in reserves just 10 months earlier. That $69 billion depletion demands that you weigh Fact 1’s significance with skepticism.

In just five months during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, Russia suffered $210 billion in reserve outflows. Indeed, the country has an almost unbroken history of capital flight – its wealthier citizens have always spirited their money offshore – and there’s plenty about the current environment that could cause that trend to pick up.

Oil prices are at two-year lows and would be lower if not for the conflict in the Middle East, which undermines Russian public revenue and private profits. What’s more, Mr. Putin faces some potentially expensive contingencies. A clandestine war in Ukraine could drain the public purse, as could bailouts of Russian banks and other politically important companies if European and U.S. sanctions restrict their actions too severely. Add the prospect of the central bank intervening as the ruble hits the lower end of its target basket price, and it’s not hard to imagine a vicious-cycle that accelerates the reserve depletion.

“Russia is a big a country, it has a lot of needs,” says Michael Cirami, co-director of global fixed income Eaton Vance , which has $288 billion in assets under management. “It’s not like it’s Ghana that has $500 billion in reserves.”

A few risk-hungry hedge funds, those from the “don’t bet against Putin” crowd, as London-based Standard Bank analyst Timothy Ash puts it, opportunistically snapped up beaten-down, high-yielding Russian bonds in September following a Ukraine ceasefire and a moderation in Mr. Putin’s rhetoric that stirred speculation over a softening in the U.S. and E.U. sanctions. But for a wider, more conservative group of institutional investors, the whole Ukraine episode, revealing Mr. Putin’s willingness to jeopardize the economy for the sake of a geopolitical power grab, has cemented a view that “Russia is just uninvestable,” Mr. Ash says.

The current backdrop of slowing growth, mounting inflation and a falling ruble stems from flaws that precede the Ukraine-spurred sanctions, says Frances Hudson, global thematic strategist at Standard Life Investments , which has $313 billion assets under management. She points to an over-reliance on commodity exports and failure to take advantage of past booms to diversify the economy.

Foreign investors would be wise to review that history.

Not only are foreign lenders proven over the time to be “pretty low on the food chain,” says Standard Bank’s Mr. Ash, but past records also show a generalized opposition to creditor interests, backed up by debtor-friendly courts inherited from the Soviet era. He notes that during the recent global crisis, banks’ non-performing loans surged disproportionately in Russia even though the overall economy’s balance sheet was in a relatively healthy state before. It is evidence, Mr. Ash says, of an ingrained “unwillingness to pay.”

Given that cultural predilection, the grinding economic pain of sanctions, along with waning oil and gas revenues and a falling ruble – which makes foreign debt payments more expensive – could easily foster a dangerous, self-reinforcing cycle.

Mistrust in the ruble has left Russian companies reliant on foreign-currency bonds. At some point, a whole host of them could slip into default. Sure, Mr. Putin might bail out those considered strategically or politically important, but that would in turn mean that his big pool of reserves could disappear very quickly and that the capital controls option is put back on the table.

– Follow Michael J. Casey on Twitter: @mikejcasey.

and more about massive drops in oil prices:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/12/cheap-oil-shock-could-see-30-per-barrel.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-30/oil-at-40-possible-as-market-transforms-caracas-to-iran.html

Quote
Oil Shock Streaks Across Globe From Moscow to Tehran to Caracas. Ready for $40?
By Gregory Viscusi, Tara Patel and Simon Kennedy  Dec 1, 2014 4:53 AM ET  918 Comments  Email  Print
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Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) –- In today’s “Bart Chart,” Bloomberg’s Mark Barton takes a look at Brent Crude prices since the beginning of 2014 on “Countdown.” (Source: Bloomberg)
Related
How Oil's Price Plunge Impacts Wall Street
Cheaper Oil Prices: Are They Good for Global Economy?
Which Nations Are Most Vulnerable to Cheaper Oil Prices?
Oil’s decline is proving to be the worst since the collapse of the financial system in 2008 and threatening to have the same global impact of falling prices three decades ago that led to the Mexican debt crisis and the end of the Soviet Union.

Russia, the world’s largest producer, can no longer rely on the same oil revenues to rescue an economy suffering from European and U.S. sanctions. Iran, also reeling from similar sanctions, will need to reduce subsidies that have partly insulated its growing population. Nigeria, fighting an Islamic insurgency, and Venezuela, crippled by failing political and economic policies, also rank among the biggest losers from the decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries last week to let the force of the market determine what some experts say will be the first free-fall in decades.

“This is a big shock in Caracas, it’s a shock in Tehran, it’s a shock in Abuja,” Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of Englewood, Colorado-based consultant IHS Inc. and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of oil, told Bloomberg Radio. “There’s a change in psychology. There’s going to be a higher degree of uncertainty.”

Related:

OPEC Inaction Spurs Survival of Fittest as Oil Below $65
ECB Confronts Cheaper Oil Spilling Onto Stimulus Debate
A world already unsettled by Russian-inspired insurrection in Ukraine to the onslaught of Islamic State in the Middle East is about be roiled further as crude prices plunge. Global energy markets have been upended by an unprecedented North American oil boom brought on by hydraulic fracturing, the process of blasting shale rocks to release oil and gas.

 
Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg
Gas is flared from a tower on an oil drilling rig operated by Petroleos Mexicans in the... Read More
Cheap Gasoline

Few expected the extent or speed of the U.S. oil resurgence. As wildcatters unlocked new energy supplies, some oil exporters abroad failed to invest in diversifying their economies. Coddled by years of $100 crude, governments instead spent that windfall subsidizing everything from 5 cents-per-gallon gasoline to cheap housing that kept a growing population of underemployed citizens content.

Oil Prices

Those handouts are now at risk.

“If the governments aren’t able to spend to keep the kids off the streets they will go back to the streets, and we could start to see political disruption and upheaval,” said Paul Stevens, distinguished fellow for energy, environment and resources at Chatham House in London, a U.K. policy group. “The majority of members of OPEC need well over $100 a barrel to balance their budgets. If they start cutting expenditure, this is likely to cause problems.”

 
Photographer: John Moore/AP Photo
An official of the Saudi oil company at a rig near Howta, Saudi Arabia.
Costs as Benchmark

Oil has dropped 38 percent this year and, in theory, production can continue to flow until prices fall below the day-to-day costs at existing wells. Stevens said some U.S. shale producers may break even at $40 a barrel or less. The International Energy Agency estimates most drilling in the Bakken formation -- the shale producers that OPEC seeks to drive out of business -- return cash at $42 a barrel.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Chairman Murray Edwards said crude may sink as low as $30 a barrel before rebounding to stabilize at $70 to $75 a barrel, the Financial Post reported.

“Right now we’re seeing a price shock coming out of the meeting and it will be a couple of weeks until we see where the price really falls,” said Yergin. Officials “have to figure out where the new price range is, and that’s the drama that’s going to play out in the weeks ahead.”

Brent crude was down $1.40 at $68.75 as of 9:14 a.m. in London, while New York oil lost $1.47 to $64.68. Brent is now at its lowest since the financial crisis -- when it bottomed around $36.

Not All Suffer

To be sure, not all oil producers are suffering. The International Monetary Fund in October assessed the oil price different governments needed to balance their budgets. At one end were Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which can break even with oil at about $70 a barrel. At the other extreme: Iran needs $136, and Venezuela and Nigeria $120. Russia can manage at $101 a barrel, the IMF said.

“Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Qatar can live with relatively lower oil prices for a while, but this isn’t the case for Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, Algeria and Angola,” said Marie-Claire Aoun, director of the energy center at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris. “Strong demographic pressure is feeding their energy and budgetary requirements. The price of crude is paramount for their economies because they have failed to diversify.”

Brent crude is poised for the biggest annual decline since 2008 after OPEC last week rejected calls for production cuts that would address a global glut.

Like this year’s decline, oil’s crash in the 1980s was brought on by a Saudi-led decision to defend its market share, sending crude to about $12 a barrel.

Russia Vulnerable

“Russia in particular seems vulnerable,” said Allan von Mehren, chief analyst at Danske Banke A/S in Copenhagen. “A big decline in the oil price in 1997-98 was one factor causing pressure that eventually led to Russian default in August 1998.”

VTB Group, Russia’s second-largest bank, OAO Gazprombank, its third-largest lender, and Russian Agricultural Bank are already seeking government aid to replenish capital after sanctions cut them off from international financial markets. Now with sputtering economic growth, they also face a rise in bad loans.

Oil and gas provide 68 percent of Russia’s exports and 50 percent of its federal budget. Russia has already lost almost $90 billion of its currency reserves this year, equal to 4.5 percent of its economy, as it tried to prevent the ruble from tumbling after Western countries imposed sanctions to punish Russian meddling in Ukraine. The ruble is down 35 percent against the dollar since June.

This Will Pass

While the country’s economy minister and some oil executives have warned of tough times ahead, President Vladimir Putin is sanguine, suggesting falling oil won’t force him to meet Western demands that he curb his country’s interference in Ukraine.

“Winter is coming and I am sure the market will come into balance again in the first quarter or toward the middle of next year,” he said Nov. 28 in Sochi.

Even before the price tumble, Iran’s oil exports were already crumbling because of sanctions imposed over its nuclear program. Production is at a 20-year low, exports have fallen by half since early 2012 to 1 million barrels a day, and the rial has plummeted 80 percent on the black market, says the IMF.

Lower oil may increase the pain on Iran’s population, though it may be insufficient to push its leaders to accept an end to the nuclear program, which they insist is peaceful.

‘Already Losing’

“The oil price decline is not a game changer for Iran,” said Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based research organization, who specializes on Iran. “The Iranians were already losing so many billions of dollars because of the sanctions that the oil price decline is just icing on the cake.”

While oil’s decline wrenches oil-rich nations that squandered the profits from recent high prices, the world economy overall may benefit. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates a $20 drop in price adds 0.4 percentage point to growth of its members after two years. By knocking down inflation by 0.5 point over the same period, cheaper oil could also persuade central banks to either keep interest rates low or even add stimulus.

Energy accounts for 10 percent to 12 percent of consumer spending in European countries such as France and Germany, HSBC Holdings Plc said.

Nigerian Woes

As developed oil-importing nations benefit, some of the world’s poorest suffer. Nigeria’s authorities, which rely on oil for 75 percent of government revenue, have tightened monetary policy, devalued the naira and plan to cut public spending by 6 percent next year. Oil and gas account for 35 percent of Nigeria’s economic output and 90 percent of its exports, according to OPEC.

“The current drop in oil prices poses stark challenges for Nigeria’s external and fiscal accounts and puts heavy pressure on the exchange rate,” Oliver Masetti, an economist at Deutsche Bank AG, said in a report this month. “If oil prices remain at their current lows, Nigeria will face tough choices.”

Even before oil’s rout, Venezuela was teetering.

The nation is running a budget deficit of 16 percent of gross domestic product, partly because much of its declining oil production is sold domestically at subsidized prices. Oil is 95 percent of exports and 25 percent of GDP, OPEC says.

“Venezuela already qualifies for fiscal chaos,” Yergin said.

Venezuelan Rioting

The country was paralyzed by deadly riots earlier this year after police repressed protests about spiraling inflation, shortages of consumer goods and worsening crime.

“The dire state of the economy is likely to trigger renewed social unrest, while it seems that the government is running out of hard currency,” Capital Economics, a London research firm, wrote in a Nov. 28 report.

Declining oil may force the government to take steps to avoid a default including devaluing the currency, cutting imports, raising domestic energy prices and cutting subsidies shipments to poorer countries in the region, according to Francisco Rodriguez, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“Though all these entail difficult choices, default is not an appealing alternative,” he said. “Were Venezuela to default, bondholders would almost surely move to attach the country’s refineries and oil shipments abroad.”

China Bailout?

In an address on state television Nov. 28, President Nicolas Maduro said Venezuela would maintain social spending while pledging to form a commission to identify unnecessary spending to cut. He also said he was sending the economy minister to China to discuss development projects.

Mexico shows how an oil nation can build new industries and avoid relying on one commodity. Falling crude demand and prices in the early 1980s helped send the nation into a debt crisis.

Oil’s share of Mexico’s exports fell to 13 percent in 2013 from 38 percent in 1990, even as total exports more than quadrupled. Electronics and cars now account for a greater share of the country’s shipments. Though oil still accounts for 32 percent of government revenue, the Mexican government has based its 2015 budget on an average price of $79 a barrel.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Flanker on December 07, 2014, 19:03:48
Of course we do ... all sane people are "seeking regime change" in Russia ...

Just a question Mr Campbell.
Who authorized you to talk on the name of "all sane people"?



Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on December 07, 2014, 23:46:48
Turkey's not only playing the multi-sided ISIS conflict (http://army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,116592.msg1333159.html#msg1333159) (ISIS vs West/Gulf States vs Iran/Assad vs Kurds), but also playing the game between Russia and the EU/NATO/the US.

 
Quote
Source: CNBC (https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/one-nato-state-wins-big-140000938.html)

One NATO state wins big from clashes with Putin
By Everett Rosenfeld | CNBC – 13 hours ago

(...SNIPPED)

Russia scrapped plans for a pipeline into Southern and Central Europe, and instead announced this week a new pipeline to carry discounted natural gas into Turkey . Moscow has already spent $4.5 billion on the so-called South Stream project, which would have seen Gazprom (Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange: SBNF-MZ) transport its product under the Black Sea and potentially all the way to Italy by way of several countries.

Turkey will be getting gas at what some have suggested may be a double-digit discount, while furthering its aspirations to be a regional energy hub.

"Turkey is looking out for itself," said Lauren Goodrich, senior Eurasia analyst at global intelligence and advisory firm Stratfor. "It's good for Russia to have a country that has a stake in Ukraine and a stake in the Black Sea and a NATO member that isn't putting sanctions on Russia...Turkey is standing on its own and they're going to reap the benefits from it."

Following Russia's announcement it was abandoning the project, some European politicians have already suggested that the South Stream project could be revived.

Gazprom has reported that discounts could be about 6 percent for Turkish customers
, Goodrich said, but Russian energy minister Aleksandr Novak reportedly said an arrangement could settle on a 15 percent discount.

"Turkey is in a very interesting position," Goodrich said. "They see an opportunity that the rest of the world is kind of against Russia right now, so if they work with Russia they can get a better deal."

Russia previously announced a gas deal with China that many have said favored Beijing because of the geopolitical pressure on Moscow from Europe and the United States.

Still, experts stressed that those deals do not mean Russia is desperate, but simply playing its cards as well as it possibly can.

Putin's Monday announcement of the $30 billion South Stream pipeline's cancellation marked the culmination of increasing difficulties for the project, which began in 2007. Bulgaria ceased construction on its part of the line in June following pressure from the European Commission that the deal would violate the Third Energy Package legislation, and other E.U. states were being similarly influence, Goodrich explained.

(...SNIPPED)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on December 15, 2014, 09:51:55
A possible response to Russian aggression: "Ghost Airports". Instapundit suggests these airports are infrastructure for a possible air bridge in the event we need to support Poland or Eastern Europe (much like some people think the "String of Pearls" naval facilities in the Indian Ocean are to support Chinese naval activities should the need arise at some future time). Military airfield don't need such elaborate facilities (C-17's and C-130's can land on dirt airstrips, after all), but this adds more "noise" to the signal, and certainly leaves questions in people's minds. A more likely explanation is these airports are part of the "stimulus package" to help bail out the EUZone from recession, but now that they are there, NATO planners have more options:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/14/us-poland-airports-specialreport-idUSKBN0JS06K20141214

Quote
Special Report: EU funds help Poland build 'ghost' airports
BY CHRISTIAN LOWE AND WIKTOR SZARY
LODZ, Poland Sun Dec 14, 2014 3:29am EST

(Reuters) - The European Union has given Poland more than 100 million euros ($125 million) to build at least three "ghost" airports in places where there are not enough passengers to keep them in business.

The result is gleaming new airport terminals which, even at the peak of the holiday season, echo to the sound of empty concourses and spend millions trying to attract airlines.

Poland is not the only country in Europe to have built airports that struggle to attract flights. Around 80 airports in Europe attract fewer than 1 million passengers a year, and about three-quarters of those are in the red, according to industry body Airports Council International. Some cost much more to build than the Polish projects. One airport in eastern Spain, open for three years, has so far received not a single flight.

But Poland is striking because the country received so much money for its projects from EU funds.

Poland received 615.7 million euros in EU support for airports between 2007 and 2013, according to figures supplied to Reuters by the European Commission. That was almost twice as much as the next biggest recipient, Spain, and more than a third of all member states’ money for airports. The government declined to provide all the information on which it based its decisions to invest in the airports, but Reuters has reviewed data on three sites where traffic fell dramatically short of forecasts.

Poland is often touted by Brussels as one of the most efficient users of EU aid, and there is no suggestion the country used EU airport money corruptly. European help has been vital in improving Poland's aviation infrastructure, only a small share of the country’s airport spending has been on white elephants, and passenger shortfalls may have been exacerbated by the 2008 global financial crisis. Spokespeople at some airports said the projects could be considered a success because they were creating jobs, bringing in tourists, and driving investment in the regional economy.

But it is clear mistakes were made in Poland, planning officials and aviation executives say. The whole experience raises questions about how the government will handle the next big injection of EU money, which it expects to be 82 billion euros over the next seven years.

The problem is most striking at the recently rebuilt Lodz passenger terminal, where passenger numbers in 2013 fell almost one million short of forecasts, according to European Commission documents examined by Reuters.

On a relatively busy day this summer, just four flights arrived and four departed. In between, the place was almost deserted. In the early afternoon a single passenger, a woman in a blue-and-white striped T-shirt, sat in a 72-seat waiting area. Outside on the tarmac, five sets of movable steps stood waiting for a jet to land.

Where there aren’t enough passengers to make an airport viable, local governments keep them on life support through subsidies, according to a report by CEE Bankwatch Network, a non-governmental watchdog. The beneficiaries have often been the airlines that use them.

Jacek Krawczyk, the former chairman of the board of Polish national airline LOT who sometimes advises the European Commission on aviation policy, said Poland was no worse than other EU countries at building airports, but the sheer volume of EU money it was trying to absorb in a short space of time explained some problems. The European Union has now tightened up the rules on state aid that airports can receive.

Krawczyk, who was not directly involved in planning any of the airport investments, said that in those Polish cases where things did go wrong, “there was no corruption, just wrong priorities.”

FAULTY FORECASTS

Between 2007 and 2013, the European Union promised funding to help build and upgrade 12 Polish airports. Some of the projections underlying the plans were highly ambitious.

The government declined to detail its predictions for passenger numbers. But figures for three of the airports – Lodz, Rzeszow and Lublin – are contained in letters on a related topic sent by the European Commission to the Polish foreign minister. The letters show Polish authorities projected combined passenger numbers for the airports to be more than 3 million passengers a year. In 2013, the actual number was just over 1.1 million.

Together, the investments in the three airports totaled about 245 million euros. Around 105 million of that came from the European Union. The rest came from central government in Warsaw, local governments and the airports themselves.

The airport with the biggest projected traffic was in Lodz.

In its heyday, the city was a thriving textile manufacturing center. Now, many of the elegant 19th-century merchant’s houses lining the main drag, Piotrkowska Street, are crumbling.

Jerzy Kropiwnicki, mayor of Lodz between 2002 and 2010, wanted to attract foreign investment and tourists. The city had a small airport that handled domestic flights; but Kropiwnicki felt a big international terminal would revive the local economy.

"I used to endlessly answer questions like: 'How do we get to you?' and 'How do we fly there?'" Kropiwnicki told Reuters.

Poland, which had joined the European Union in 2004, was gearing up for a massive injection of EU cash to be spent on development projects between 2007 and 2014. To get the funds, the country had to prepare a strategic plan for civil aviation. At the Transport Ministry, this task fell mainly to Andrzej Korzeniowski.

He was given three months to draft the plan and meet the EU funding deadline. “I slept on a camping mattress under my desk," Korzeniowski, now retired, told Reuters. "I had no time to eat."

Looking back on the 160-page document he drafted, Korzeniowski says it was, under the circumstances, a good program. But it had a big shortcoming: It let local governments decide where new airports should be built, and how big they would be. “That was the biggest mistake, for which we’re now paying the price,” he said. “The local governments decided, 'I’m a prince in my domain, the government doesn’t tell me what I’m supposed to do, we do what we want.’”

By 2005, passenger numbers in Lodz were shooting up. Wojciech Laszkiewicz, an adviser to the mayor who went on to be deputy chief executive of the airport, said the team decided to rebuild the terminal entirely.

The airport commissioned a feasibility study from advisory firm Ernst & Young (EY), published in November, 2009. EY predicted a minimum of 1.042 million passengers in 2013 for Lodz. That was less than the government forecast but many more than the 353,633 who actually passed through the airport last year. EY declined to comment.

Lodz’s mayor, Kropiwnicki, left office in 2010, two years before the new terminal opened. The aim of the airport was to help stimulate the local economy, he said, and it is achieving that. "From my point of view, the airport wasn't supposed to make a profit."

“CANNIBALIZATION”

The problem, say aviation industry officials and consultants, is that passenger numbers for any individual airport are impossible to predict with confidence. Even if national forecasts hold true, local factors can pull passengers away from one airport and attract them to another.

Lodz quickly became a victim of this "cannibalization,” as the airline industry calls it, because Warsaw airport was also upgraded, and a new highway built which brought the capital within 50 minutes’ drive of Lodz.

“To have an airport in Lodz from that point of view makes no sense at all," said Krawczyk, the former airline chairman. He is now president of the Employers’ Group of the  European Economic and Social Committee, a Brussels-based consultative body that advises on EU decision-making.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development said it could issue guidelines, but could not directly influence local authorities: "A decision on expanding or building an airport for a particular region is the prerogative of the local authorities."

Under EU rules, though, the initial cash for airports comes from national governments. They are reimbursed by the EU when it approves a scheme.

Only investments worth over 50 million euros have to seek the Commission’s prior approval, and many of the Polish airport investments were below that threshold. The Commission has since said its approach to funding the airports will undergo a radical change. In February, it introduced stricter criteria, and said loss-making airports will be forced to wean themselves off state aid. It did not name any countries.

PAYMENTS TO AIRLINES

For now, the Polish airports still need help, and that can be expensive. Senior managers in the Polish aviation industry said the cost of running a small regional airport would be at least 3 million euros a year. At the moment in Europe, they are often propped up through financial injections from local authorities, which are often their biggest shareholders.

The state also has indirect methods of helping the airports, in particular by giving money to the airlines – mainly low-cost carriers like Ryanair.

"In practice, these payments serve as an incentive for airlines," CEE Bankwatch Network, the non-governmental watchdog, said in its report.

Lodz and Rzeszow airports did not respond to questions about how much they pay airlines. A spokesman for Lublin airport said only that it was successfully boosting communications to help the local economy.

But public records for Podkarpackie, the mountainous, forested region where Rzeszow airport sits, show that between 2011 and 2014 its government paid 5.7 million euros to Ryanair in exchange for advertisements promoting the region, which appeared on Ryanair’s web site and in its in-flight magazines. Podkarpackie spent another 3 million euros to advertise with Polish carrier Eurolot over a three-year period.

In all, 70 percent of the region’s 2013 promotional budget went to airlines that fly into Rzeszow airport.

These payments are problematic, say several people involved in Polish aviation, because the airports are at the mercy of the airlines. With so many airports to choose from, airlines can easily shift routes.

“The relationship between the local airports and low-cost carriers is suicidal,” said Krawczyk, the former airline chairman. For low-cost carriers, he said, “nothing will ever be enough. ... At some point they will say, ‘If you don’t give us more, we’ll go.’ And they go.”

A spokesman for the region where Rzeszow is located said the deals were good value because they allowed it to target the kind of travelers it wants. He said tourist numbers in 2013 were double the level in 2010.  A Eurolot spokeswoman said such marketing deals were widely used in the aviation business in Europe. She said the airline provided marketing exposure for the region, for example by painting its jets in the region’s colors.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary told Reuters such advertising was a good deal for local governments because the Ryanair website reached a huge audience. He said Ryanair brought economic benefits to places that are off the beaten track, in part by flying in tourists. But “if the airport doesn’t want me, that’s fine. I’ve 80 other airports in Europe who want the growth. We don’t force any airports" to pay.

"If Rzeszow has enough low fares, Rzeszow can grow to 1 million visitors, 5 million visitors, 10 million visitors,” said O’Leary. “They provide – well, I don’t know what Rzeszow is famous for, but it's famous for something."

(Additional reporting by Robert Hetz in Madrid and Rene Wagner in Berlin; Edited by Sara Ledwith)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on December 15, 2014, 18:44:57
 >:D

The Poles are amateurs in comparison to Spain.

The Spaniards build airports then don't have to waste money on maintaining them because no one uses them.

However the Spaniards are still not in the league of the true professionals.  The Greeks.  They get money to build airports and then don't build them, thereby saving themselves both capital and operating costs.

 >:D

The problem with an airfield as a military asset is that it benefits he who gets there fustest with the mostest.  The Poles should be in good shape as long as they maintain a solid air defence capability.  Otherwise a chap named Vlad could be tempted to leap over Donetsk and Lviv to Lodz.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on December 18, 2014, 14:57:33
The KGB agent in power seems stumped:

Reuters (http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKBN0JV2R120141218)

Quote
Putin says Russia economy will be cured, offers no remedy
By Timothy Heritage and Alexei Anishchuk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin assured Russians on Thursday that the economy would rebound after the ruble's dramatic slide this year but offered no remedy for a deepening financial crisis.

Defiant and confident at a three-hour news conference, Putin blamed the economic problems on external factors and said the crisis over Ukraine was caused by the West, which he accused of building a "virtual" Berlin Wall to contain Russia.

At times sneering, at others cracking jokes, he ignored pressure to say how he will fix an economy facing what his economy minister calls a "perfect storm" of low oil prices, Western sanctions over Ukraine and global financial problems.

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 19, 2014, 00:59:26
The Economist weighs in with this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from that newspaper:

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21636747-collapse-rouble-caused-vladimir-putins-belligerence-greed-and-paranoia-ye
Quote
(http://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/the-economist-logo.gif)
Russia and the rouble
As ye sow, so shall ye reap
The collapse in the rouble is caused by Vladimir Putin’s belligerence, greed and paranoia

Dec 20th 2014 | From the print edition

VLADIMIR PUTIN has successfully suppressed dissent, squeezed out opposition and clamped down on the media, but he has not been able to control global financial markets. In recent days the rouble has collapsed; it has lost almost 40% of its value over three weeks. This is the biggest crisis of Mr Putin’s reign—and it is entirely his fault.

(http://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/original-size/images/print-edition/20141220_LDC575.png)

Mr Putin will no doubt blame all the usual suspects—Western speculators who bet against his currency, Western imperialists who imposed sanctions on his economy, Western economists who failed to forecast that the oil price (down by half over six months) would fall as far as it has and, of course, Western newspapers that told him that his policies would lead to disaster. But the crisis is the inevitable consequence of Putinism—of aggression abroad and a corrupt-and-control economy at home.

Kleptocracy and its consequences

The sanctions were imposed by the West because of his conduct in the Ukraine, where he has, among many things, seized territory, engineered a war and refused to investigate the shooting down of a civilian airliner. Meanwhile, he has failed to reform Russia’s economy, leaving it dependent on the energy industry that he has carved up among his friends. Had he chosen to build an economy based on the rule of law and competition rather than patronage and corruption, things would have looked very different.

In the short term, there is not a great deal that Mr Putin can do to get his country out of the mess that he has made. A huge interest-rate rise this week, following previous large increases, has not worked. Capital controls are not the answer. They can sometimes be effectively employed against short-term speculation, but in this case investors are rightly worried about an economy that is so reliant on one sector. Anyway, in such a lawless place, capital controls would be porous and could trigger runs on the banks (see article) which the country could ill afford. Russia still has reserves of $370 billion, but it also has foreign-currency debts of more than $600 billion.

To improve the long-term prospects of an economy that is heading into a deep recession, two bigger changes are needed. The first is that Russia should pull back from eastern Ukraine and seek some accommodation with the government in Kiev and the West that could lead to the lifting of sanctions. The second is a change to the country’s economic model. Mr Putin needs to take advantage of the fall in the value of the currency to diversify away from excess dependence on oil and gas, which make up two-thirds of exports; to improve the competitiveness of manufacturing and high-tech industry; to strengthen the rule of law; and to clean up corruption. To implement all this he should replace his pliant prime minister (and previous president), Dmitry Medvedev, with a credible economist such as Alexei Kudrin, who was a respected finance minister for 11 years. His oligarch chums might not like this, but Russians would be better off.

Sadly, none of this is likely to happen. Mr Putin will probably double down, railing against Western iniquity, stifling all dissent at home, destabilising Ukraine still more and interfering further in other neighbouring countries. And he will pursue a course of growing autarky, severing as many of Russia’s economic and financial links to the West as he can.

A brazenly nationalist course will impoverish Russia further, making it impossible for Mr Putin to keep delivering rising living standards. He will gamble that the Russian people are foolish enough to trade prosperity for nationalistic fervour. This newspaper hopes he is wrong.


In my opinion, and many will differ, Mr Putin is a prototypical Russian: a bully and a bit thick, to boot; but the Russian people support him, and his aggression, and that just proves my point.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MCG on December 19, 2014, 02:12:24
A similar bit from the Globe and Mail suggests that it is that Russian nationalism that may be the biggest hazard for what comes next.

Quote
Putin, not oil prices, the author of Russia's miseries
The Globe and Mail
18 Dec 2014

Russia has been a country on the brink for a long time, held together by the force of Vladimir Putin’s personality. But even an 80-per-cent domestic approval rating cannot help Mr. Putin when so many economic forces are lining up against him. A deep dive in oil prices in recent weeks is simply the final nudge pushing Russia to the edge of the cliff.

The ruble’s value against the U.S. dollar has been cut in half this year; after the country’s central bank this week attempted to stem the tide by hiking interest rates to 17 per cent from 10.5 per cent, the markets responded by shaving 20 per cent off the value of the currency in a matter of hours. The ruble’s fall is linked to a 50-per-cent decline in oil prices since last summer. But oil prices alone have not caused Russia’s decline.

If Mr. Putin were the introspective type, he would have to accept blame for much of this situation. Russia has been shovelling money into its incursions in Ukraine and in retaliation is beset by an array of global trading sanctions. Foreign companies have become increasingly leery of the corrupt regime he oversees and have withdrawn in droves. Domestic investors are even wiser.

But Mr. Putin is defiant and defensive, and the worry now is what he may do next to try to distract from his problems. The worst case scenario is that he plays the nationalist card to provoke more military conflicts in neighbouring countries, a strategy he has employed in Ukraine with great domestic success.

There are those who think that sanctions should be eased, to help protect Russia from a full-out economic collapse. But unless Mr. Putin agrees to withdraw from Ukraine, any reversal on sanctions will be read as acceptance of his actions. That would reward aggression, and further empower him against what little domestic opposition still exists. It would give him a huge win.

No one wants Russia to sink further into economic turmoil. But Mr. Putin is the main author of his country’s misfortunes. His policies have damaged Russia’s global relationships and left few tools in place for western countries or corporations to help clean up its growing mess.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on December 21, 2014, 12:43:40
And WRM suggests that Putin may well become more dangerous as his options become more limited:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2014/12/16/ruble-crisis-puts-putins-back-against-the-wall/

Quote
Ruble Crisis Puts Putin’s Back Against the Wall
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
Putin’s path of least resistance is the path of greatest danger for Russia.

It’s panic time in Moscow, as the deadly double whammy of collapsing oil prices and Western sanctions is knocking the Russian economy into recession. Nothing the government can do has been able to stem the accelerating selloff in Russian assets, and the meltdown has gone so far that average people increasingly understand that their economic futures are at risk. And for good reason, as Reuters explains:

The rouble plunged more than 11 percent against the dollar on Tuesday in its steepest intraday fall since the Russian financial crisis in 1998 as confidence in the central bank evaporated after an ineffectual rate hike…

It has now fallen close to 20 percent this week, taking its losses this year against the dollar to over 50 percent and raising memories of the crisis in 1998 when the currency collapsed within a matter of days, forcing Russia to default on its debt… [A]nalysts say the country is on the brink of a full-blown currency crisis.

The Putin government has come to a fork in the road—and both of its choices look unpleasant. It can accept that the oil price collapse is forcing it to change paths in foreign policy and give up (at least for now) on its dreams of geopolitical revenge for the defeat in the Cold War—or it can double down on the fight against the West and the world system.

The first course is obviously the smartest from the standpoint of Russian national interest, but the second may make more sense in terms of the personal fortunes of one Vladimir Putin—and unless something changes in Russia, Putin is firmly in charge.

Putin has to be thinking in terms of using the crisis to enforce even tighter government control over Russia’s economy: cracking down on currency trading, increasing control over banks, possibly repudiating private as well as public debts to Western creditors. To make this work, he’d have to resort to claims that the West is in an all-out war to destroy Russia, and that national mobilization (under, of course, his inspired leadership) is the only way to save the country.

The long term prospects for such a course of doubling down on an aggressive foreign policy are not good; the Soviet Union was a lot stronger than Russia is today, and the USSR went down in poverty and defeat. And many of the Russian oligarchs and elites who have made huge fortunes under Putin would face massive financial losses if this plan goes forward. (They’ve already sustained heavy blows as Russia’s stock market implodes.) So to continue down this road, Putin will need to tighten his control over his supporters; the logic of Putin’s policy abroad is a more radical dictatorship at home. To justify the crackdown, Putin will need to convince Russians that the country faces a truly diabolical threat from beyond its borders, so we could well see him simultaneously embracing more confrontational policies abroad and a more totalitarian style of leadership at home.

Putin, who embodies a mix of geopolitical recklessness and shrewd calculation, will do his best to avoid being trapped into the harshest and most radical course. He will be looking for a strategy that avoids the worst economic consequences without giving up on his ambitions in Ukraine. One choice would be to do something dangerous and expensive from the standpoint of Russia’s longterm national interests, and double down on his relationship with China.

Putin has tried this route before, announcing large, long term gas deals with China as a way of underlining his independence from European energy customers. But those deals are long term and may never reach fruition. If he needs ready cash—and the increasing pressure on his shrinking foreign exchange reserves suggests that he soon may—he’ll have to find some compelling deals that the Chinese are willing to pay for up front. Fire sales of Russian assets to Chinese buyers could generate enough cash to ride out the storm in the financial markets, and China’s hunger for raw materials remains huge. Long term contracts to exploit mineral resources, sweetened perhaps with agreements not to contest Chinese influence in central Asia and so forth, could provide—at an extremely high cost to Russia’s own long term national interests—a way for Putin to ease the pressure he’s under now.

At the moment, China wants no part of Russia’s quarrel with the West. But, it also doesn’t want the U.S. to crush Russia once again. If there were a way for China to make extremely advantageous energy and mineral deals while also propping up a power that, like China, wants to see a reduced U.S. role in the world, Beijing just might lend Putin a helping hand.

It won’t come cheap, though: Beijing can see what a weak hand Putin has, and it will expect to be compensated—at Russia’s expense—for any help it offers the struggling strong man.

Another route Putin may opt for is to take measures to bring Russian oligarchical capital, which has been in full-on flight mode, back to Russia. One of the least-discussed parts of Putin’s recent annual state-of-the-country speech was his announcement of an amnesty that will allow the oligarchs to bring their money home without punishment.

There is one other alternative that the Dark Genius of the Kremlin may be turning over in his mind: Is there some way Russian foreign policy could create a Middle East crisis that would drive oil prices back up into the stratosphere? The most obvious way would be to bring about some kind of situation involving the Iranian nuclear talks—perhaps by offering quiet support to Iranian hardliners, increasing the chances that the talks fail. Any kind of serious war scare in the Persian Gulf would be good for Russia’s financial situation; Russian foreign policy experts are presumably thinking through their options.

One hopes for the sake of the long-suffering people of Russia that Putin somehow finds it in himself to turn away from the very dark path that now lies before him. But it won’t be an easy thing to do. He’s gone out on such a limb in Ukraine, introduced such a poisonously chauvinistic public mood in Russia, and alienated so many potential partners and interlocutors in the West that it will be extremely difficult for him to defuse the crisis while remaining in power.

The path of least resistance for Putin is the path of greatest danger for Russia; we shall see what choices he now makes—and we shall see if he has so thoroughly mastered Russia’s oligarchs and institutions that no effective opposition to him is possible even if he pushes the country further down the road to isolation and ruin.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on December 23, 2014, 11:54:45
A trade/customs union?

Associated Press (https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/leaders-russia-4-other-ex-soviet-nations-finalize-144925091.html=)

Quote
Leaders of Russia and 4 other ex-Soviet nations finalize creation of new ambitious alliance

MOSCOW - The leaders of Russia and four other ex-Soviet nations have completed the creation of a new ambitious alliance intended to bolster their economic integration.

The Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, comes to existence on Jan. 1. In addition to free trade, it's to co-ordinate the members' financial systems and regulate their industrial and agricultural policies along with labour markets and transportation networks.

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on December 23, 2014, 14:49:49
Because Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan provide so much value added to Russia.

The ideal outcome for Russia is the Russians get to plunder the natural resources and exploit the labour resources of these nations for Russia's profit. the ideal outcome for us is they become even greater drags on the Russian economy, since as impoverished and underdeveloped nations they would demand Russian financial resources to participate in any projects and modernize their economies.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on December 24, 2014, 09:33:26
Well, it's only fair.  The EU has such stalwart economic powers as Greece, and has taken on the burden of Ukraine, so I guess it balances things out :P
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Humphrey Bogart on December 24, 2014, 10:48:00
Well, it's only fair.  The EU has such stalwart economic powers as Greece, and has taken on the burden of Ukraine, so I guess it balances things out :P

(http://static.fjcdn.com/large/pictures/2f/b2/2fb2a5_3716450.jpg)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MCG on December 26, 2014, 15:39:44
Not sure if it is doctrine (as the article suggests) or policy, but regardless it would seem the Russia is expressly, publicly declaring a first-strike nuclear defence policy and is naming NATO as the key enemy.  Is the return to Cold War now complete?

Quote
Putin signs new military doctrine naming NATO as Russia’s top military threat
by Associated Press
National Post
26 Dec 2014

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin has signed a new military doctrine that describes NATO’s military buildup near the Russian borders as the top military threat amid Russia-West tensions over Ukraine.

The document released by the Kremlin on Friday maintains the provisions of the previous, 2010 edition of the military doctrine regarding the use of nuclear weapons. It says Russia could use nuclear weapons in retaliation to the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against it or its allies, and also in case of aggression involving conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence” of the Russian state.

For the first time, the new doctrine says that Russia could use precision weapons “as part of strategic deterrent measures.” The document doesn’t spell out conditions for their use.

...
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on December 26, 2014, 18:57:58
Can't say that I blame them for this, and it's our (the West's) fault: we started it first when we started converting former WP nations and Soviet Republics to NATO.  Then the coup d'état in Kyiv (with or without our help is irrelevant: the fact is that "we" benefited from it and are now providing material support to Kyiv).

Best to keep a hands-off approach to anything the other side of the Bug river.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Dimsum on December 26, 2014, 19:06:23
Not sure if it is doctrine (as the article suggests) or policy, but regardless it would seem the Russia is expressly, publicly declaring a first-strike nuclear defence policy and is naming NATO as the key enemy.  Is the return to Cold War now complete?

CF bases in France and Germany back on the table?    :blotto:
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on December 26, 2014, 19:21:47
Forcing the Russians to (stupidly) waste (spend) more and More and MORE on their national defence while, simultaneously, undercutting their economy, by all means, fair and foul, is the best tactic. We don't need to spend a lot more on defence ... just keep pressuring them.

The Chinese will, eventually, step in and "rescue" them, I think, but I doubt the Russians will like the rescue package very much, at all. (As someone pointed out earlier, the Chinese don't want the Russians to fall. Weaken and wither? Yes. Fall? No. The Chinese want to pick up the pieces of an only partially collapsed Russia - mainly the natural resources, especially water, oil and gas, in Central and Eastern Siberia.)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on December 26, 2014, 19:56:57
Can't say that I blame them for this, and it's our (the West's) fault: we started it first when we started converting former WP nations and Soviet Republics to NATO.  Then the coup d'état in Kyiv (with or without our help is irrelevant: the fact is that "we" benefited from it and are now providing material support to Kyiv).

Best to keep a hands-off approach to anything the other side of the Bug river.

Although *we* certainly benefit, it is also quite clear that the vast majority of Eastern European nations actively wanted to join the EU and become part of NATO in order to achieve a permanent severing of their "ties" to Russia. Other than allowing the formation of an Eastern European Union centred on Poland (which in the end is actually happening now), I'm curious as to what other COA there was? They clearly had no desire or intention of remaining under the Russian influence or inside any sort of Russian zone of influence, regardless of what Russia or the EU wanted...
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on December 26, 2014, 20:27:41
Simple COA: Partnership for Peace.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on December 26, 2014, 21:21:51
I remember that many of the nations involved looked at the Partnership for Peace as the essential first stepping stone for entry into the EU Zone and becoming integrated with the West (joining the EU, NATO etc.). If you are suggesting that the PfP should have been used as a sort of corral for Eastern European nations, my question would be was that a realistic proposition, given that it was the express desire for all these nations and peoples to exit the Russian "zone" as rapidly as possible?

Even if it it was somehow possible to corral the Eastern European nations into a PfP zone sandwiched between the EU and Russia, would that have been a better solution? I could certainly picture a grouping of nations centred on Poland which looked with suspicion and dread to the East, while being resentful of being excluded from the prosperous and peaceful West, hardly an improvement in my view.

I'm not disputing that the process that was followed in the real world could have been done differently, I'm saying that there were very strong forces at work to bring the Eastern European nations into the West, and not all these forces were coming from Bonn or Brussels.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on December 30, 2014, 19:53:01
Putin's grip on power weakening?

Reuters (http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKBN0K81JM20141230)

Quote
After 15 years in power, Putin risks running out of luck

By Timothy Heritage

MOSCOW (Reuters) - When Vladimir Putin was handed power unexpectedly by an ailing Boris Yeltsin on the last day of the last century, his first move was to go on television to guarantee Russia the freedoms needed for a "civilized society".

Fifteen years later, his critics accuse the former KGB spy of sacrificing emerging political and economic freedoms to the idea of Soviet-style glory, bringing the country close to economic collapse and international isolation over Ukraine.

Opinion pollsters say his ratings are at near record highs and a groundswell of protest is unlikely in the near future.

(...SNIPPED)



Reuters (https://ca.news.yahoo.com/moscow-court-moves-verdict-putins-top-foe-apparently-170207123.html)

Quote
Putin foe found guilty of fraud; anti-government protest erupts in Moscow
The Canadian Press

By Nataliya Vasilyeva, The Associated Press

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.

Police allowed a few thousand protesters to gather just outside Red Square for about two hours — a show of relative restraint for Russian authorities, who have little tolerance for dissent — before moving in to break up the unsanctioned rally by pushing the demonstrators toward subway entrances

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on January 02, 2015, 16:11:33
The Counter-Offensive Begins....

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/11321207/Russias-Red-Army-Choir-cover-Pharrell-Williams-Happy.html
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on January 02, 2015, 18:19:07
The Counter-Offensive Begins....

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/11321207/Russias-Red-Army-Choir-cover-Pharrell-Williams-Happy.html
"Because I'm happy to be here, instead of doing traffic control in Novorossia right now ...."  >:D
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on January 05, 2015, 18:49:06
Russia's military seems determined to go all out in developing combat robots. While the US has developed various sorts of combat robots, concerns about their effectiveness and ethical issues about control over autonomous killing machines have prevented them from being used to date. Russia already fields some of these devices, and things like the next generation Russian T-14 tank are claimed to have robotic turrets. The reasoning seems a bit fuzzy from these articles; are the Russians thinking ahead to the demographic crash when they will need to man the borders and the factory floors with half their current population, or are they looking at the here and now and massively upgrading the firepower available to their troops?

There is perhaps something to be learned for us in the CF: we have the need for lots of systems and enablers, but simply do not have the manpower (to field mortar platoons or fire support platoons in the Infantry, for example). A robot carrying an HMG/grenade launcher/automatic cannon or an automatic mortar similar in conception to the "Dragonfire" or the 2B9 Vasilek could move with the infantry (both mounted and dismounted) to provide heavy firepower for a fraction of the manpower needed to field a platoon that can provide the same amount of firepower and support. Robotic trucks to flesh out the logistics systems, and robotic engineering machines to carry out the most dangerous tasks are also real, near term possibilities that a rich, Western military could field.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/robots/russia-wants-autonomous-fighting-robots-and-lots-of-them-16787165

Quote
Russia Wants Autonomous Fighting Robots, and Lots of Them
Putin's military is busy building autonomous tanks with mounted machine guns and unmanned, amphibious Jeep-size vehicles.
By David Hambling
May 12, 2014 5:00 PM

A new video shows a Russian military robot doing something no American machine in service can match: firing a machine gun. It's hardly a technological triumph—the U.S. has been testing armed robots for decades. But while political and ethical caution has prevented the West from advancing with the concept, Russia seems determined to field a wide variety of combat robots.

The Russians call such robots MRKs, from the Russian for Mobile Robotic Complex. The latest is the MRK-002-BG-57, nicknamed Wolf-2. It's basically a tank the size of a small car with a 12.7-mm heavy machine gun. In the tank's automated mode, the operator can remotely select up to 10 targets, which the robot then bombards. Wolf-2 can act on its own to some degree (the makers are vague about what degree), but the decision to use lethal force is ultimately under human control.

Ramp-Up

Although the U.S. military fielded thousands of robots in Iraq and Afghanistan, these were used for bomb disposal and reconnaissance only. In 2007 the widely publicized deployment of three Talon/SWORDS robots fitted with machine guns ended in fiasco. The robots were confined to their base and never sent out on patrol because of fears of what might happen if anything went wrong. Work continues with MAARS, the successor to Talon/SWORDS, but there is no sign yet of anything being fielded. And when the budget gets tight, unmanned systems tend to feel the squeeze first.

While research stalls in the United States, Russia's leaders are determined to make their country a robot superpower. In January 2013, defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to expand the army's use of robots. A few months later, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced a new production facility for military robots and a research center for military robotics. Rogozin says that someday soon, one Russian soldier will do the work that takes five or 10 soldiers today, which would be impossible without advanced robots.

Not surprisingly, then, Wolf-2 is far from Russia's only entry in armed robotics. In December, Shoigu visited Rzhevsky Proving Ground to watch a Jeep-size amphibious vehicle called Argo swim across a lake and fire at targets. In June Rogozin was treated to a display by the tank-like Nerehta with twin machine guns; the developers claim the stabilization is better than on Western models. (Rogozin advised adding some anti-tank missiles. This would give it effective firepower against other vehicles as well as against foot soldiers.

There are smaller machines for urban operations, like the Strelok or "Sharpshooter," a 5-foot by 2-foot robot armed with a Kalashnikov, that can slam through doors and climb stairs. Then there is the Metalliste, a short-range, grenade-lobbing device, a 110-pound six-wheeler that can mount a silenced submachine gun as well. It is supposed to reduce casualties to Interior Ministry police by keeping them out of harm's way.

Catch-Up

These unmanned systems represent a monumental undertaking, especially for a Russian military known not for high-tech systems but for rugged, reliable weapons that can be churned out in great numbers (think the T-34 tank, AK-47 Kalashnikov, and RPG-7 grenade launcher). Frank Tobe, editor of The Robot Report, says that the Russians have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to sophisticated fighting robots.

"My sources in Israel and the U.S. say that Russia is generations behind and not a serious participant in the growing science of unmanned vehicles," Tobe told Popular Mechanics.

But Mark Gubrud, an expert on emerging technology and a member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, believes the situation has the makings of an arms race.

"Russia will need years to catch up in robotics but is fully capable of doing so," Gubrud says. "This highlights the folly of pursuing a robot arms race. As the U.S. and U.K. are clear leaders in the race, they should equally well take the lead in calling it off." Would Russia really agree to call off the arms race? "I do believe they may support the initiative if others do, especially the U.S, U.K. and allies," Gubrud says.

We're still waiting to see whether Russia has the funding to back up its armed robot rhetoric. It is clear, however, that the push to develop Russia's own Terminators has support from the very top.

"These are serious combat systems, both attack and reconnaissance versions," President Vladimir Putin said last year, describing new Russian development in unmanned vehicles. "It is absolutely clear that they have good prospects."
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on January 08, 2015, 10:07:21
Meanwhile, another retired Russian general has killed himself apparently because he couldn't get adequate cancer treatment (http://www.newsweek.com/fourth-russian-general-commits-suicide-less-year-297055):
Quote
Lieutenant general Anatoly Kudryavtsev, a 77-year-old former serviceman in the Russian air force committed suicide in Moscow on Tuesday according to Russian police, becoming the fourth case of a former high-ranking Russian military officer taking his own life in less than a year.

Police in the Russian capital said that they had found Kudryavtsev’s body in his flat in southwestern Moscow. It’s reported that he had hung himself and left a suicide note explaining that he had suffered "excruciating pain" as a result of his stomach cancer and that he did not “blame anyone” for his death.

According to official records Kudryavtsev served in the air force until 1993.

(....)

In June, 68-year-old retired Russian secret service agent general Viktor Gudkov was found dead by police in his flat in southern Moscow. He appeared to have shot himself in the throat with a gun awarded to him for his military service in Chechnya.

Gudkov was reported to have suffered a “serious illness”, which was said to have caused him to fall into a depression, though his health problems had not been specifically diagnosed before his death.

Several months prior, also in Moscow, the highly decorated major general Boris Saplin, who retired in 1989, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a prize gun which had been given to him after his service in the Soviet-Afghan war.

According to police, he too was suffering from cancer, leaving a short suicide note in which he complainined of an “immense headache”.

Earlier in the year in February, retired rear admiral of the Russian navy Vyacheslav Apanasenko also shot himself in the head in his Moscow apartment after also suffering from stomach cancer.

Apanasenko was found by police and rushed to hospital, where he remained in critical condition for 10 days until he passed away. His suicide note alleged his wife had tried to procure the necessary drugs to treat his condition but had been unsuccessful. He wrote: “I do not blame anyone for this except the government and our health care.” ....
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on January 08, 2015, 16:45:16
The ramifications of Russias actions in the Caucus have not been subject to much analysis to date. This article from The American Interest is a good starting point:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/01/06/the-caucasus-after-ukraine/

Quote
The Caucasus After Ukraine
Sergey Markedonov & Maxim A. Suchkov

A look around the Caucasus shows that the various constituent countries have drawn vastly different lessons from the crisis in Ukraine.

The crisis in Ukraine seized the world’s attention for the better part of 2014, and it may be just the beginning of a broader trend in confrontation and competition between Russia and the West across Russia’s periphery.
Within the territory of Ukraine itself, the conflict has some risk of spreading. Ukraine has a 405 km-long border in its southeast with an internationally unrecognized pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria, which is locked in a “frozen conflict” with the government of Moldova. Before the current crisis in Ukraine blew up, Kyiv had acted as one of the guarantors of the peacekeeping process there (along with Russia, and with the OSCE as mediator). The new Ukrainian authorities have, however, changed tack on the region, constructing defensive fieldworks across the border and disallowing Transnistrians who hold Russian passports from crossing it. While the current economic malaise consuming Moscow’s elites makes it unlikely that the Kremlin will push events on behalf of the Transnistrians, Western policymakers focusing solely on events in the eastern half of Ukraine are ignoring a potentially dangerous situation.

But the real effects of the Ukraine crisis will be felt most profoundly in the South Caucasus, the least predictable hotbed of discontent in Eurasia, where the events in Ukraine are being watched attentively. Six of the nine armed conflicts in the space of the former Soviet republics are festering in the South Caucasus, and it is here that several destabilizing precedents—like the recognition of former autonomous areas (Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia) as independent states—were first attempted by Moscow. It is also the only part of the former USSR where neighboring states have no diplomatic relations with each other (Armenia and Azerbaijan, Russia and Georgia). Finally, it is a region of particular focus for Russian security services, which are preoccupied with the looming threat of cross-border Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, always apparently on the verge of spinning out of control.
The precedents and examples created by Ukraine’s Maidan protests, its civil war in the Donbass, and the case of Crimea are reverberating across the region. And although Ukraine itself has not historically been the biggest player on the South Caucasian chessboard, its role in regional affairs should not be underestimated.

Kyiv’s Strategic Ally

Georgia was among the first of the former Soviet republics to sign the treaty “On Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Help” with Ukraine, in April 1993. Ever since, Tbilisi has been Ukraine’s most loyal ally in the region. The dynamics and the content of the relationship have certainly changed over time, but what has been preserved and re-emphasized is a focus on strategic cooperation. Georgian elites viewed Ukraine as a new potential “elder brother”, and an alternative power center for Moscow’s policies in the post-Soviet space. The idea reached its zenith in the GUAM project in 2001, a trade and security pact uniting Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova in a bid to counter Moscow’s predominant influence in the region. At one point, there was even a serious debate about the possible deployment of Ukrainian peacekeepers in the zone of Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.1

Today, Georgian elites regard the situation in Ukraine as a microcosm of the bigger geopolitical standoff between Russia and the West, rather than as a sui generis crisis that arose out of various domestic political developments. As a result, Georgia’s leaders are on tenterhooks, worrying if Tbilisi is next on Moscow’s list of states that need to be brought to heel. Make no mistake: the Ukraine crisis is currently a prime driver of Georgia’s ambitions for integrating into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

And these fears seem justified by the recent developments in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where the Ukrainian conflict was cited by the breakaway factions as justification for further moves for outright secession. During the parliamentary elections in South Ossetia, the victorious “United Ossetia” party trumpeted reunification with North Ossetia in Russia. Similarly, the newly elected President of Abkhazia, Raul Khadzhimba, favors deeper politico-military relations with Russia and a freezing of all contact along the breakaway region’s frontier with Georgia. Moscow subsequently began preparing a new bilateral treaty, with emphasis on deeper trade integration and further liberalization of the border. It was finally signed last November.

Nevertheless, it’s important to note that the treaty was not some sort of unilateral triumph for the Kremlin’s expansionist ambitions, as it was often portrayed in Western media. Though the Abkhaz elite was interested in having deeper relations with Moscow, it nevertheless managed to reject some key points in the treaty, such as a clause allowing Russians the right to acquire Abkhaz citizenship and to claim land and property there.

Though the worry that Moscow will incorporate the breakaway regions into its territory is certainly not farfetched, it is based on the assumption that it is now the Kremlin’s strategy to multiply “Crimean precedents” all across the post-Soviet space. The reality, however, is that Moscow has shown little appetite to extend the precedent to the Caucasus. Right after the five-day war with Georgia in 2008, for example, the Kremlin extended its Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership with Ukraine, originally signed on May, 31, 1997, for another ten years. This was at a time when Saakashvili’s close ally, Victor Yuschenko, ran the country. And more importantly, while it has expressed interest in a closer relationship with Georgia’s two breakaway entities, Moscow has repeatedly declined to discuss the regions’ change in status and any “incorporation” of new territories into the Russian Federation.
The truth of the matter is that Russia has little additional leverage to gain from outright annexation, and in fact would be only multiplying its liabilities, both economic and in the security realm, should these wayward territories be joined to it. And therein lies a potentially serious trap for Moscow. If the Russian-backed regions present the Kremlin with a direct plea for annexation, it will face an unpleasant choice: either disappoint its clients or further antagonize the West, cementing its reputation as a pariah state for more than a generation to come.

Nevertheless, none of this means that Russia will foreswear annexation eventually. Many Georgian leaders, in both the United National Movement party and the Georgian Dream, hope that Russia’s support for the separatist forces in Ukraine is ineluctably forcing the West to confront Russia both directly, through sanctions, and indirectly, by putting in place some kind of security framework in other post-Soviet states. Though there is precious little evidence that the West is tilting in this direction—both the Obama administration and the EU seem focused on keeping their disagreement with Moscow focused on what is going on in Ukraine alone—Georgian leaders’ most fervent wishes could well turn out to be the stuff of nightmares for them. For as history has repeatedly shown since the fall of the Soviet Union, pushing Russia out of areas where it perceives it has real national interests only increases its resolve. And this has little to do with Russia’s political or military swagger, or with dreams of recreating some kind of expansive empire on the ashes of the Soviet Union. It is, rather, the product of a genuine and broad resentment across Russian society for any and all foreign encroachments on its sovereignty. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry can speak all they want of outmoded 19th-century ideas about spheres of influence, but if anyone in Washington or Brussels is at all perplexed by the resiliency of Vladimir Putin’s popularity, he need not look further than this very real psychological fact.

Ukraine Crisis as Accelerator of Eurasian Integration

The Ukrainian Maidan pushed Georgia’s neighbor Armenia in the opposite direction. While Yerevan had never been particularly close to Kyiv2, it was far from an open-and-shut case that the country would choose to join Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union (as it did by signing a treaty on October of 2014 that gives it full membership in January 2015). There is no common border between Armenia and Russia, and tariffs and custom duties are already lower in Armenia than in the current members of the Eurasian Economic Union. Furthermore, the common border between Armenia and a Western-inclined Georgia, which is still angling for further Euro-Atlantic integration, could potentially also create problems.

Ideally, the Armenian leadership would have liked to stick to a balancing, “complimentary approach”, having both Russia and the West woo it, playing one off against the other just as Ukraine had managed to do to varying degrees after the Orange Revolution. After Maidan, however, it saw the Eurasian Union as the better deal: an opportunity to re-configure bilateral relations with Russia and to get some additional sweeteners from Moscow. The Association Treaty with the EU, the leadership judged, would just as surely scupper Yerevan’s “complimentary approach” without giving it any of the tangible benefits that Moscow was offering.
The government decision to do so, however, triggered a great deal of skepticism among some sectors of Armenia’s elites, and strengthened support for opposition parties. While the treaty may well be a done deal, the political ramifications may not yet be fully felt.

The other precedent Ukraine set for Armenia parallels what we have seen in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and has to do with the resurgence of nationalism in the region. There is growing sentiment across the political spectrum that the “re-incorporation of Crimea into Russia” justifies Yerevan’s striving to win back “Armenia’s historical lands” in Nagorno-Karabakh. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the summer of 2014 saw the largest number of reported cases of ceasefire violations in the region since overt hostilities ended in 1994. Over the last week of July and first week of August, there were more than 1,500 breaches of the ceasefire on both sides, resulting in at least 24 dead. In one of the most serious incidents, an Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army plane was shot down by the Azeri military this November. This is all truly regrettable, as Nagorno-Karabakh has probably been the only conflict in the post-Soviet space where, despite differences in interests and positions, Russia and the West (the United States and France) cooperated within the OSCE Minsk group with relative success over two decades.

And the international community is being far from helpful. As the crisis in Ukraine grew more heated with each passing week, each member of the OSCE Minsk group tasked at policing the conflict—the United States, Russia and France—insisted more vehemently on pursuing its own policy without coordinating with the others. This led to a particularly silly series of repetitive meetings between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, first mediated by President Putin in August, then by Secretary John Kerry in October, and then by French President François Hollande in November.

Azerbaijan: Between the Energy and Revolution

Azerbaijani interpretations of the developments in Ukraine, however, are based on different premises than those of its neighbors. For one, Azerbaijan has been Ukraine’s principal partner since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992. Unlike Georgia, the strategic focus between the countries has been the creation of an alternative energy supply route to minimize Russian influence. Just before the protests sparked on the Maidan, then-President Victor Yanukovich declared Ukraine to be a reliable transit-state for Azerbaijan’s energy exports, and called on Baku to consolidate this key segment of their nexus and to pool their efforts in supplying hydrocarbons to Europe. Yanukovich, of course, is there no more, but despite the outspoken criticism of his policies on the part of the current Ukrainian leadership, there’s every reason to presume that this specific area of Azeri-Ukrainian relationship will remain in place.

The strongly authoritarian government in Baku remains extremely wary of any signs of agitation for regime change on its territory and in its periphery. A little-known fact is that the Maidan first appeared as a symbol of civic and political activity in Azerbaijan during an 18-day rally in late November and early December of 1988. From that time, numerous small-scale Maidans have recurred across Azerbaijan, usually during election campaigns—for example in 2003 and 2005. This explains the circumspect way the Azerbaijani authorities have approached the Ukrainian revolution. Since the country’s territorial integrity with the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is brought in question by the precedents in Ukraine, the ruling elite in Baku have sensibly adopted a wait-and-see approach, until a real power center in Ukraine emerges that they can do business with.

One thing is for certain: the longer the conflict in Ukraine continues, the more ripple effects it is likely have across the Caucasus and the rest of Eurasia—ripples which can easily grow into sizable waves, given how divisive the conflict is proving across the post-Soviet space. The Ukrainian experience certainly will not be exactly repeated in any of the countries, but it has stirred passions across the political spectrum in all the important countries in the Caucasus, a region that neither Russia nor the West is likely to let go easily.

How one sees the Ukrainian revolution all depends on one’s “sitting point” (a favorite phrase of Ukraine’s second President, Leonid Kuchma). But by stubbornly clinging to the inviolability of its “sitting points” and by failing to work out a modus operandi, Ukraine could easily become a sticking point that leads to yet another era of deep mistrust, confrontation, and uncertainty between the West and Russia, with neither side a winner.

Dr Sergey Markedonov is Associate Professor at Russian State University for the Humanities. In 2010-2013 he was a Visiting Fellow at the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program (Washington, DC). He is the author of numerous works on the Caucasus and Black Sea security and ethno-political issues. Dr. Maxim A. Suchkov, formerly Fulbright Visiting Fellow at Georgetown University, is currently a Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Studies (Pyatigorsk, Russia), a contributor to Al-Monitor and to the Carnegie Moscow Center's Eurasia Outlook.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on January 15, 2015, 14:32:17
More on Russian modernization plans for the future. It is interesting that they are focusing on area weapons (flame and thermobaric) rather than increasing the scale and scope of PGMs like Western nations (Think of things like the XM-25 or mini Spike Anti Personnel Guided Missile as examples of man portable Infantry PGM's.). The big question is can the Russian economy support this level of effort?

http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/01/russia-will-deploy-innovative-special.html

Quote
Russia will deploy innovative special ammunition for better penetration of fortification and armor
 
Russia’s intendsto modernise much of its military in the coming years. Russia will spend about $600 billion from now to 2020 upgrading tanks, planes, missiles and ships.

The commander of Russia’s Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defense (RBhBD) troops, Maj. Gen. Eduard Cherkasov, announced a focus on so-called ‘flame weapons’ – incendiary, thermobaric and fuel-air explosive (FAE) weapons – describing a program of modernisation and development.
 
Russia is creating special ammunition that will hit highly secure defense constructions. Shortly, infantry flame units will receive new weaponry with higher fire precision and the penetration before exploding effect, ability to destroy fortified emplacements, armoured equipment, and personnel in trenches.”
 
“Flame weapons are very efficient in close combat and have not only physically destructive but also psychological effect on an enemy.”
 
Some examples of existing flame based weapons and special ammunition
 
The RPO-A is a shoulder-fired recoilless weapon in a 93 mm calibre, with an effective range of approximately 200 meters. It enteredservice in Soviet times and remains in production today, however it has been supplemented in Russian service by the MRO-A. The MRO-A is a 72.5 mm rocket launcher with a total weight of 4.7 kg, and an effective range of around 90 meters.

The 9M22S incendiary rocket ws used in eastern Ukraine. The 122 mm 9M22S rocket carries the 9N510 warhead, containing 180 incendiary elements which are composed of ML-5 magnesium alloy and filled with a pyrotechnic composition similar to thermite. Each element has a burning time of at least 2 minutes. The 122 mm rocket is launched from the 9K51 Grad MLRS and similar systems, with the 9K51 being capable of firing up to 40 rockets in around 20 seconds.
 
The 9M51 fuel-air explosive rocket has also been employed in eastern Ukraine. This 220 mm rocket is launched from the 9K57 Uragan MLRS and delivers the 30.2 kilogram 9N515 FAE warhead. This rocket is designed to engage infantry and light vehicles, and is particularly effective against targets in confined spaces
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: ueo on January 15, 2015, 15:14:51
Direct response to your posed question- probably as these types are much less expensive to develop, produce and employ than the west's PGMs. IMO the reason behind area weapon development is the almost total control of the Russian press by Putin et al. No collateral damages reported to the quivering masses. Just a thought.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on January 16, 2015, 17:28:20
"The Bear" resurgent?

Reuters (https://ca.news.yahoo.com/russia-could-soon-run-multiple-ukraine-sized-operations-131010025.html)

Quote
Russia could soon run multiple Ukraine-sized operations: U.S. general
Reuters

 By Adrian Croft | Reuters – 8 hours ago

WIESBADEN, Germany (Reuters) - Russia is working to develop within a few years the capability to threaten several neighbors at once on the scale of its present operation in Ukraine, a senior American general said.

Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, told Reuters an attack on another neighbor does not seem like an immediate threat because Moscow appears to have its hands full in Ukraine for now.

But that could change within a few years, when upgrades sought by President Vladimir Putin would give Russia the ability to carry out up to three such operations at the same time, without a mobilization that would give the West time to respond.


"Right now, without mobilizing, I don't think they have the capacity to do three major things at one time. They can do one thing, I think, in a big way without mobilizing. But in four to five years, I think that will change," Hodges said.

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: George Wallace on January 16, 2015, 17:59:33
Throughout history, others have tried that.  Napoleon.  Hitler.  Almost all have met with dismal results and annihilation of their cause.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on January 16, 2015, 23:11:13
I wonder if a little quiet pressure applied to Sibera over a long time by China won't change Russia's tune?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on January 24, 2015, 02:05:52
Putin's Deputy Prime Minister to Davos - on the fate of that great liberal reformer, Catherine the Great:

Quote
Mr Shuvalov said a utopian quest for freedom is the curse that brought down the Soviet Union. In a bizarre digression, he then launched into tirade against former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, accusing him of leading the country to destitution and collapse by opening up to western ideas.

"This freedom they are trying to impose on us, it is freedom from common sense, it is freedom of the media to insult anybody, to throw dirt in his face. That's not freedom," he said.

Mr Shuvalov said his country needs the smack of firm government, and reminded the audience of what happened to the German-born empress Catherine the Great when she tried to foist freedoms on Russia in the 18th Century: "She was told clearly that if she meddled in these matters, she would be murdered."

This silenced the room.

And the Ukrainians, as Rus, likely also need a firm smacking......

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11365497/Kremlin-hard-liner-Russians-would-rather-starve-than-surrender-Putin-to-Western-aggressors.html
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on January 24, 2015, 16:33:55
Reports that the Russian Navy is literally rusting away. I'm sure this is a best/worst case scenario (depending on where you sit), with heroic efforts the Russians should be able to operate more tun 45 ships. (Of course we have few reasons to gloat, our navy has pretty much disintegrated as well, and we don't have enough sailors to man the ships we do have):

http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/01/russian-navy-can-only-deploy-45-of-its.html

Quote
Russian Navy can only deploy 45 of its 270 ships

The Russian navy is on the edge of a precipitous decline in ship numbers and combat power, owing to huge industrial shortfalls that have been decades in the making. Today the Russian navy possesses around 270 warships including surface combatants, amphibious ships, submarines and auxiliaries. Of the 270 ships, just 125 or so are in a working state. And of those 125, only around 45 are oceangoing surface warships or submarines that are in good shape and deployable.

Most of the Soviet-vintage ships will decommission in the next few years as they became too old to sail safely and economically.

Gorenburg, Harvard Analyst, says the Russian shipbuilding industry could build somewhere between half and 70 percent of the vessels Moscow wants by 2020. “The earliest that Russia could build a new aircraft carrier is 2027, while new destroyers are still on drawing board, with the first unlikely to be commissioned for 10 years.

The U.S. Navy possesses some 290 warships. Pretty much all of them are well-maintained, deployable, oceangoing vessels.

China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets.

When Moscow moved to annex Crimea in March, the U.S. Navy promptly sailed its new flattop USS George H.W. Bush into the eastern Mediterranean to reassure NATO governments. Bush‘s battle group included no fewer than 60 high-tech warplanes and several of Washington’s modern Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, armed with missiles and guns for fighting planes, submarines and other ships.

In response, the Kremlin sent in Kuznetsov. The aging carrier — much smaller than Bush — carried a dozen or so Sukhoi fighters. Her six escorts included just a single heavily-armed vessel, the Soviet-vintage nuclear cruiser Pyotr Velikiy. The other five ships included one small amphibious landing ship plus three support tankers and a tugboat.

The tugboat was along for a good reason. On the few occasions when Kuznetsov leaves port, she often promptly breaks down. In 2009, a short circuit sparked a fire that killed one seaman aboard the rusting vessel.

Kuznetsov shadowed Bush in the Mediterranean for a few weeks, then returned home to northern Russia through the English Channel in early May.

Kuznetsov doesn’t have many years left in her. Her boilers are “defective,” according to the trade publication Defense Industry Daily. Yet when she goes to the breakers to be dismantled, Moscow could find it impossible to replace her. For one, the shipyard that built all the Soviet carriers now belongs to Ukraine. It lies just outside of Crimea, and Russian forces did not manage to seize it.

SOURCES - War is Boring, Reuters, Defense Tech
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Retired AF Guy on January 24, 2015, 18:41:44
Quote
Mr Shuvalov said his country needs the smack of firm government, and reminded the audience of what happened to the German-born empress Catherine the Great when she tried to foist freedoms on Russia in the 18th Century: "She was told clearly that if she meddled in these matters, she would be murdered."

This silenced the room.

While not an expert by any means on Russian history, my understanding is that Catherine was known for her reforms to Russian society.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MCG on January 26, 2015, 22:37:52
S&P cut Russia's credit rating to junk status.  France suggests that, maybe, Russia should see this as a sign to reflect on its continued behaviour in the Ukraine.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/russia-s-sovereign-credit-rating-downgraded-to-below-investment-grade-1.2932136
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on February 03, 2015, 07:51:27
While not an expert by any means on Russian history, my understanding is that Catherine was known for her reforms to Russian society.
Among other things ....
(http://thumb1.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/1060016/123701008/stock-vector-jumping-horse-black-white-picture-isolated-on-white-background-vector-illustration-123701008.jpg)
 >:D

Back to reality, this caught my eye in ITAR-TASS (http://itar-tass.com/en/russia/775102):
Quote
The chairman of Russia’s State Duma education committee, Vyacheslav Nikonov, dismissed as nonsense a proposal by a Russian lawmaker that Moscow should ask Germany to pay reparations for the World War II damage.

"That’s nonsense," Nikonov, a prominent Russian political scientist and historian, told TASS in comments to a proposal voiced by Mikhail Degtyaryov, a lawmaker from the Russian Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR).

"The reparations were paid by Germany and mainly East Germany, and this matter has been settled," Nikonov said, adding that Germany stopped paying reparations in 1953.

Russia’s Izvestia daily reported on Tuesday that the lawmakers of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, are setting up a working group that will calculate the damage inflicted by Germany, which invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

Degtyaryov, a member of the LDPR’s supreme council, claimed that Germany had paid practically no reparations for the devastation and carnage during World War II, which is known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia.

The lawmaker said although an agreement on cessation of reparations was signed with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), no such agreements were ever signed with the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and after the German reunification.

Under the Yalta agreements, the Soviet Union received some German assets, mostly furniture, clothes and manufacturing equipment, from the Soviet sector of control. But this no way compensated for the damage to the USSR’s economy during the war.

( .... )

The lawmaker said the total amount of reparations that Germany has to pay to Russia, which is the legal successor to the USSR, could stand at around €3-4 trillion.

Russian experts say, however, that although claims against Germany are well-grounded, repayment of reparations is possible only upon an interstate agreement and it is practically unrealistic to recover any reparations seventy years after the end of the war.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on February 05, 2015, 21:44:25
Interesting. Didn't know that the Pentagon had a "Body Leads" team. Wonder if they are hiring?

The Pentagon’s Secret Putin Diagnosis
What the world’s most powerful military learned from watching TV.


http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/02/putin-autism-pentagon-114937.html?hp=m1#.VNQZtkuRtM8

Quote
Do you like watching Internet videos and then drawing broad, sweeping, pseudoscientific conclusions about the people involved? If so, congratulations, you might be qualified to join the Pentagon’s secret team investigating the nonverbal cues of powerful world leaders.

Yesterday, following Freedom of Information Act requests by a group of news organizations including Politico, the Pentagon released two studies, both published here in full for the first time, analyzing Vladimir Putin's inner demons—or at least those inner demons that you can observe from watching a ton of publicly available videos. The release has brought a harsh light to the Office of Net Assessment’s “Body Leads” team and its conclusion diagnosing Putin, the Russian president who likes to take shirtless horseback rides, bunga bunga with his bestie Silvio Berlusconi and invade his neighbors, with autism. Or, actually, according to the report, he probably has autism—they’d need a brain scan to confirm. And that’s harder to do when you’re just watching someone on TV.

“Body Leads” is apparently a Department of Defense-funded project dedicated to writing studies that no one ever reads (at least not until this week) about the “nonverbal communication” (aka movement) of world leaders. Its first study about Putin, “A Technical Report on the Nature of Movement Patterning, the Brain and Decision Making (with gratitude to Vladimir Putin, The President of Russia For helping us understand ……),” was published in 2008 and prepared by “Body Leads” leader Brenda Connors, an expert in “movement patterns analysis” at the Naval War College.

Analysis of Internet videos, Connors writes, “clearly reveals that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality … identified by leading neuroscientists as Asperger’s Syndrome, an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions.” (As of 2013, Asperger’s syndrome is no longer considered a legitimate diagnosis but rather part of the autism spectrum.)

The autocrat’s “primary form of compensation,” Connors concludes, “is extreme control.” Those who work with him are encouraged to present “an exhaustive fact sheet” when they outline geopolitical recommendations. Because “unsubstantiated recommendations may be lost in his perceptual system that simply has trouble taking in information differently.”

We also learn that Putin did not crawl as a child (have you noticed how he has trouble getting off that judo mat?); that, unlike what Time says, he was probably born with his cold stare; and that his “own sense of self is a work in progress.”

The second study, published two years after the “reset” with Russia when Putin was prime minister and his protégé Dmitry Medvedev was president, is called “The Russian Leadership Tandem in Interaction: Insights From Movement Analysis.” In its 40-or-so pages, we learn essentially that Medvedev does not have autism (but “since adolescence, he has exhibited a physical armoring or disunity which inhibits harmonious movement”) and that Putin is kind of a procrastinator. No study has been conducted since Putin returned to the top office, annexed Crimea and sent his tanks rumbling into Ukraine.

It’s unclear what it costs the Office of Net Assessment to fund “Body Leads,” but we know that since 2009, outside experts working with Connors have received at least $365,000.

Just yesterday, one of the “leading neuroscientists” cited in the 2008 study backed off his initial diagnosis. It turns out that Putin’s tendency to get defensive in large social settings—while it has been observed in individuals who have autism—could also be characteristic of, well, people who get defensive in large social settings.

Even the authors have admitted in the past that this is all a work in progress. But thankfully for them, Putin’s “continuing presence on the world stage provides a rich ongoing basis to confirm previous project hypotheses about his behavior.” Do you think they have all they need now?

“Body Leads” repeatedly calls whatever it does “as potent an instrument as an evolving weapon system.” But if these two particular inquiries into the bane of the West and how he gets off the judo mat were so useful, why has no one important ever seen them? According to his spokesperson, Hagel didn’t. Panetta didn’t. And surely Obama didn’t, or he probably would have handed Putin an exhaustive fact sheet and Ukraine would be a lot better off today.

Both reports are available at the link.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on February 05, 2015, 22:04:50
I found this Frontline documentary to be a much more meaningful analysis of Putin's agenda. The Cleptocracy that is modern Russia is a construction in which Putin has a deep involvement.

And a very telling line towards the end of the video. Essentially it says Putin needs to hold onto power no matter what the cost. There are too many bodies buried, people with axes to grind, and unpunished crimes for him to ever let go of the reins. The only alternatives are jail or death.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/putins-way/

Oh, and you might get a laugh or two out of the comments section. Particularly Brian Lee. Can you say plant?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on February 07, 2015, 13:43:44
A good commentary addressing the validity of the report I referenced upthread on the Pentagon's analysis that determined Putin suffers from Asperger's Syndrome.

Putin Has Asperger’s? Don’t Flatter Him.
As the father of a child with the syndrome and a Russia expert, I can tell you the Pentagon report couldn’t be more wrong.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/02/putin-has-aspergers-dont-flatter-him-114978.html?hp=m1#.VNZLyEuRtM8

Quote
A recently-released 2008 Pentagon-backed study has set the Internet aflame with the hypothesis that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin might have Asperger’s syndrome—an autism spectrum disorder characterized by social, behavioral and communicative difficulties. While there’s been a lot of talk in the Twittersphere discussing how ridiculous this “diagnosis” is, there’s also been quite a lot of fairly serious coverage of the report, all of which completely ignores its speculative and unscientific nature. As a Russia watcher with a son diagnosed with Asperger’s—and likely on the spectrum myself—I’m struck by how thoroughly the report and those who give it credence both demean people with Asperger’s and show a complete ignorance of Russian history and current affairs.

In his seminal 1944 study of children who exhibited obsessive interests, a domineering conversational style, clumsiness of movement and difficulty feeling empathy and forming friendships, Viennese child psychologist Dr. Hans Asperger referred to these children as “little professors,” as they could investigate and speak endlessly on those topics that engrossed them. That is true of my son, and of me—both as a child and now as an actual professor of political science. Perhaps it is that obsessiveness that motivated me to look further into this study of Putin.

It is best that Brenda Connors’ paper, “A Technical Report on the Nature of Movement Patterning, the Brain and Decision-Making,” was left to languish in a dusty, Defense Department archive, since it would never had made it through the rigorous peer-review process—either in the social sciences, psychology or the professional medical community.

First: the paper, beyond being sloppily written, full of typos and logical inconsistencies, with entire sections repeated verbatim, has no hypothesis, no claim that can be either substantiated or disproven with evidence. Indeed, that Vladimir Putin has Asperger’s is the foundational assumption at the start of the paper, rather than the conclusion reached at the end. “Vladimir Putin,” she writes, “is our focus because his movement patterns and his microexpressions, analyzed on open source video so clearly reveals that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality, a profound behavioral challenge identified by leading neuroscientists as Asperger’s Syndrome, an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions. His primary form of compensation is extreme control and this is isomorphically reflected in his decision style and how he governs.”

Beyond beginning with a conclusion, the paper tells us nothing about what these patterns and microexpressions are, how and by whom they’re interpreted and what basis exists for such a diagnosis from such evidence. Well, actually, we are given some evidence: Time’s “Person of the Year” article, which that mentions Putin’s cold, icy stare, his lack of charm, impatience and that he didn’t crack a joke.

And never mind that the main tool the author uses to diagnose the Russian leader, “Movement Pattern Analysis,” was pioneered by a 1930s Hungarian choreographer. Or that a study she uses to interpret invisible thoughts through movement was only published by something called “Dance & Movement Press.”

While not wanting to disparage unconventional research, I would not want to rely on these types of sources for making a serious autism diagnosis.

Still, the report asks us to believe that all of Putin’s political decisions and inclinations are singularly influenced by Asperger’s: his impatience, his wonkish attention to detail, his comfort with routine, his obsession with controlling the day-to-day operation of running a giant country, his “basic personal struggle” to find an inner circle he can trust, seeking glory for himself and the country he leads—all of it because of something that may or may not have happened when young Volodya was a child. This explanation overlooks the tomes of research in sociology, history, political science and Russian studies suggesting that such traits are all manifestations of the sistema of high-level autocratic politics in Russia—before Putin, under Putin and will continue after Putin—regardless of whether he has Asperger’s or not.

But here’s what I worry about most: In recent months, Vladimir Putin has become arguably America’s greatest foreign villain: invading and annexing Crimea, stoking anti-Western xenophobia at home, withstanding international sanctions for fueling the bloody war in Eastern Ukraine that resulted in the tragic downing of MH-17, thousands of Ukrainian deaths and a refugee crisis in the heart of Europe. American public opinion toward Putin has tanked, while experts struggle to explain this new belligerence coming from the closed-off autocrat behind the Kremlin walls. While I’m sure many have (rightly) dismissed the Pentagon study as the unscientific rubbish it is, there are others who are too primed to believe that America’s most vilified, opaque and misunderstood political rival should be singularly motivated by autism—America’s widely feared, opaque and misunderstood neurological condition. Putin is scary. Autism is scary. Put the two together, and you’ve got a story with legs, if not evidence.

It is not just Putin who gets further denigrated in all of this—it is those of us in the special-needs community, too. Sticking through the jargon of this Pentagon report is hurtful, unscientific and downright condescending terminology describing not just the Russian president, but individuals with Asperger’s and autism worldwide: “suffering” the “neurological insult” and “profound handicap” of Asperger’s, Putin is at a “primitive,” “pre-mammalian” and “reptilian stage of development.” Honestly, it’s so thoroughly insulting, the Pentagon should be ashamed to have paid for it.

And ultimately: So what? If, in the end, it turns out that Vladimir Putin is an Aspie—what does it matter? Can someone with Asperger’s not run a country? Certainly it’d be preferable if the Russian Federation were an actual, functioning, democratic federation, with decision-making power spread throughout the system—but it’s not. Russia is—and largely has been—a closed autocracy with most of the levers of power housed in the Kremlin. In that situation, it might actually be preferable to have someone who’s wired to be obsessively dedicated to the work of governance. In a 2008 hot-mic gaffe, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell claimed Janet Napolitano was perfectly suited for the onerous job of Secretary of Homeland Security, “because for that job, you have to have no life. ... She can devote, literally 19-20 hours a day to it.” Rendell’s words were impolite and embarrassing, but they also contained a grain of truth: For tough government jobs, you need people with tremendous dedication. In that way, Asperger’s may be an asset for politicians, entrepreneurs, managers and even professors, for whom dedication, hard work and an almost obsessive attention to detail are job requirements. Though it goes without saying that such a diagnosis neither explains nor excuses invading neighboring countries, annexing their territory or stoking a protracted land war.

At the end of the day, the Pentagon’s Asperger’s report was likely a waste of money that had very little impact on American foreign policy toward Russia. But the media firestorm that it has unleashed tells us that we still have far to go in how we understand autism here at home, and how we treat those of us who have it.

Mark Lawrence Schrad is assistant professor of political science at Villanova University and author of the new book Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on February 07, 2015, 16:37:37
Putin may or may not have a mental deficit.

But he is bright enough to have worked his way out of a communal apartment to achieve the point where the whole world has been backfooted and speculates idly about who he is while worrying about what he will do next.

He is a ******* surrounded by like-minded bastards.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Dimsum on February 09, 2015, 05:40:30
Russia Reportedly Getting Bases in an EU State

Quote
Presumably, the Russian Air Force will use the airbase “Andreas Papandreou,” along with the international airport of Paphos in the southwest of the island, approximately 50 kilometers from the air base of the British Royal Air Force “Akrotiri.” Additionally, the Russian navy will be able to permanently use the base of Limassol, according to Lenta.Ru.

“The Limassol port borders on the British air base of Akrotiri which serves NATO operations and is also an important hub in the electronic military surveillance system of the alliance,” according to the Global Post.

A Russian naval base 50km from RAF Akrotiri.  Well then.

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/russia-military-agreement-in-cyprus-2015-2?utm_content=bufferb0b32&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on February 09, 2015, 18:57:59
Hmmm. This should be interesting.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on February 16, 2015, 09:18:45
The worst of economic woes still yet to come?

CNBC (https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/storm-coming-russians-still-fear-062026187.html)

Quote
'Storm is coming': Russians still fear crisis
CNBC – 4 hours ago

As Russia's economy continues to struggle amid swingeing sanctions, oil price declines, a weak ruble and rampant inflation, ordinary Russians are feeling the pinch - with some believing the crisis hasn't even started yet.

Russia's economy has been hit hard by the severe decline in global oil prices and sanctions imposed on the country for its part in the Ukraine conflict. This, in turn, has caused the currency to weaken 90 percent against the dollar over the last 12 months, further pushing up the rate of inflation which stands around 11.4 percent.

To top it all off, Russia's economy is expected to enter recession this year, but one Moscow-based economist told CNBC that the crisis hadn't even started yet. "We are on the edge of crisis, we're close but we're not yet there," Vladimir Tikhomirov, chief economist at Russian financial services firm BCS Financial Group, told CNBC. "I can say that we have not yet seen the full effect of the economic crisis - redundancies, closing businesses, rising non-performing loans - we haven't seen those things yet but that's not to say it's not coming," he warned.

Putin says leaders have agreed on Ukraine cease-fire "This is the calm before the storm, we know the storm is coming it just depends on how severe it is." Russia's economy has undergone a radical tranformation from the days when it was a jewel among emerging markets. In 2015, the economy could shrink by as much as 5.5 percent, however, according to ratings agency Moody's, a far cry from the 5.6 percent growth seen back in 2008.

(...SNIPPED)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on February 16, 2015, 19:56:14
Interesting read on perhaps the inner thinking of the man in charge.

What Putin’s Favorite Guru Tells Us About His Next Target

Russia’s Soviet-style leader is following the advice of the USSR’s most famous dissident.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/02/vladimir-putin-guru-solzhenitsyn-115088.html#.VOKBnUuRtM8

Quote
In a ceremony at the Kremlin in June 2007,  Vladmir Putin awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation—the highest award in Russia—to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning author whose brave exposure of Soviet oppression during the Cold War had made him a revered figure in the West. Both Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin had tried to do give Solzhenitsyn the same prize for the Gulag Archipelago and other famed works but the writer didn’t have much use for them—two leaders who tried to break with the communist and imperialist identity of Russia. Putin was different. Putin, Solzhenitsyn said in an interview shortly before his death in 2007 at age 88, had brought “a slow and gradual restoration” to Russia.

The admiration was mutual. After praising Solzhenitzyn at the Kremlin ceremony for devoting “practically all his life to the Fatherland,” Putin visited the writer at home, telling him how much of his program for Russia was “largely in tune with what Solzhenitsyn has written.” And recent political developments show that Putin indeed has followed many of Solzhenitsyn’s ideas, particularly in the area known as “the near abroad,” or the former USSR.

Indeed, it is one of history’s ironies that the No. 1 internal enemy of the Soviet Union has now become a spiritual guru to a former KGB officer who repeatedly voices nostalgia for Soviet times. For years before his death, the fiercely nationalistic Solzhenitsyn suggested that post-Soviet Russia must include Ukraine. Solzhenitsyn did not see the Ukrainians as a separate nation: “All the talk of a separate Ukrainian people existing since something like the ninth century and possessing its own non-Russian language is recently invented falsehood,” he wrote in a 1990 essay, “Rebuilding Russia: Reflections and Tentative Proposals.”

Putin likewise sees Ukraine as an artificial state: At the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, he told then-President George W. Bush that “Ukraine is not even a state. Part of its territory is in Eastern Europe and the greater part is a gift from us."

Today, with the world’s attention focused on Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, we might look to Solzhenitsyn’s writings for a clue as to where Putin’s next aggressive move might be: Kazakhstan.  Solzhenitsyn saw Kazakhstan in the same light as Ukraine, suggesting that it was not really a separate state and that much of its territory is historically Russian. “Its present huge territory was stitched together by the communists in a completely haphazard fashion: wherever migrating herds made a yearly passage would be called Kazakhstan,” he wrote in his essay. “Today the Kazakhs constitute noticeably less than half the population of the entire inflated territory of Kazakhstan.”

Putin has taken a similar tack toward Kazakhstan publicly. He managed to insult the Kazakhs in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis by saying that their president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, had “created a state on a territory where no state had ever existed.”

Kazakhstan, like Ukraine, has a large Russian population, and as in Ukraine, Russian nationalists view parts of Kazakhstan as Russian land. Kazakhstan, Solzhenitsyn wrote: “had been assembled from southern Siberia and the southern Ural region, plus the sparsely populated central areas which had since that time been transformed and built up by Russians, by inmates of forced-labor camps, and by exiled peoples.”

A passionate patriot as well as a champion of free speech, Solzhenitsyn left a rich, diverse, and controversial legacy. Putin chooses to follow only those ideas that fit his neo-imperialist and reactionary agenda, and naturally they don’t usually include the free-speech part. But Solzhenityzn the nationalist he loves. In December 2014, speaking in the Kremlin about Western sanctions, Putin quoted Solzhenitsyn as saying: "It is time to defend Russia, otherwise they will cow us completely."

In his 1990 essay, written on the eve of the fall of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn suggested that Russia abandon its global agenda and focus, instead, on its internal problems. He called for the immediate separation of Russia from the Soviet Union—a call that was heard by the first president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, who in December of 1991 signed the Belavezh Accords with Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and the head of Belarusian parliament, Stanislau Shushkevich, thus hammering the last nail in the coffin of the USSR and leaving Mikhail Gorbachev without a job.

Yet in the same essay, Solzhenitsyn wrote that “the word “Russian” had for centuries embraced Little Russian [Ukrainians], Great Russians, and Belorussians.”He accepted the potential future independence of Ukraine but added: “The area is very heterogenous indeed, and only the local population can determine the fate of a particular locality”–advice that Putin appeared to take to heart in his annexation of Crimea and is currently pursuing in Eastern Ukraine.

Located in the center of Eurasia, Kazakhstan covers a territory larger than Western Europe. It is rich in natural and human resources and, unlike some other post-Soviet states, has maintained relative peace and stability. This is largely due to the political efforts of Nazarbaev, the country’s autocratic ruler, who has demonstrated Machiavellian skills in suppressing the opposition and appeasing external foes. Nazarbaev has been very careful with Putin but the seeds for a future dispute—either political or military—have been planted. Concerned with Russia’s neo-imperialist policies conducted under the pretext of defending the Russkii Mir (the Russian World), the Kazakhs may eventually turn away from Russia, particularly when the era of Nazarbaev ends.

No doubt this will have  political consequences, possibly envolving a military conflict similar to what is happening in Ukraine, where after his annexation of Crimea Putin supplied and funded pro-Russian separatists in the east.

Putin also seems to echo  Solzhenitsyn in his distaste for the West and its mores. In 1978 in a famous speech at Harvard, Solzhenitsyn criticized Western civilization for a lack of courage, its unrestained freedom of media, and its fixation on law and individual rights. The withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Vietnam, according to the Nobel Prize Laureate, was a sign of weakness: “To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being.” Solzhenitsyn even passed harsh judgment on the Western concept of the rule of law, no doubt pleasing Russia’s future leader: “Legal frames, especially in the United States, are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes… The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society.”

In spite of his abhorrence of Soviet system, Solzhenitsyn also recommended that Russia not follow the Western path: “Should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively…  The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.”

This reactionary agenda has been meticulously followed by Vladimir Putin. 
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on February 19, 2015, 17:55:24
Russia and "Orthodox Civilization" (to use Samuel Huntington's idea) have a far different outlook than "Western" civilization on things like individual rights, property and the Rule of Law. To some extent, this explains why a man like Alexander Solzhenitsyn could be both a severe critic of the USSR and of the West at the same time.

While I have no definitive answers, it is instructive to read some of Putin's other influences, including Alexander Dugan and Vladimir Solovyov. Russian philosophical thought also seems to be dominated by Eurasianism; the study of Russia's place and influence in Eurasia and the world, which may go some way to explaining Russia's actions in the "Near Beyond" and Russia's former "sphere of influence" (regardless of the fact that most of the nations formerly in that sphere made every effort to exit as soon as possible and practical).

While it would take a long time to study and absorb this, I'm fairly certain the reason we find Putin's motives so opaque is we really don't understand the lenses that he is looking at the world through. If we had a better understanding it would be easier to predict where they Russians think as the way forward, and also to find points of leverage we could use against them when needed.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MilEME09 on February 21, 2015, 07:31:01
Quote
Putin says 'no one' can have military superiority over Russia

The Associated Press
Published Friday, February 20, 2015 12:49PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 20, 2015 2:35PM EST

MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin says he will not allow anyone to get a military advantage over Russia and pledges that the country will never yield to foreign pressure.

In a tough statement that comes amid tensions with the West over Ukraine, Putin warned Friday that "no one should have any illusions that it's possible to achieve military superiority over Russia or apply any kind of pressure on it." He added that the nation's military would always have an "adequate response."

The Russian leader vowed that an ambitious military modernization program envisaging the deployment of hundreds of new combat jets, missiles and other weapons would be carried out

Despite an economic downturn caused by low oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine, Russia's military budget has risen by one-third this year.


http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/putin-says-no-one-can-have-military-superiority-over-russia-1.2245701
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on February 24, 2015, 16:21:41
While YMMV with Wikipedia, it is a good basic starting point to begin research. Here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasianism) is the article on Eurasianism. It is instructive to see how Russians who follow this idea reject the idea and ideals of Western civilization or Russia (even European Russia) being a part of it. Alexander Dugin is a prolific writer on the subject, and also is associated with Putin's inner circle. It is quite probable that Putin and his circle have drunk the kool aide and are motivated at least in part by some of the ideas of Eurasianism.

Quote
Neo-Eurasianism[edit]
 
See also: Foundations of Geopolitics
 
Former Warsaw Pact countries
Neo-Eurasianism (Russian: неоевразийство) is a Russian school of thought, popularized in Russia during the years leading up to and following the collapse of the Soviet Union, that considers Russia to be culturally closer to Asia than to Western Europe.
 
The school takes its inspiration from the Eurasianists of the 1920s, notably Prince Nikolai Trubetzkoy and P.N. Savitsky. Lev Gumilev is often cited as the founder of the Neo-Eurasianist movement, and he was quoted as saying that "I am the last of the Eurasianists."[1]
 
At the same time, major differences have been noted between Gumilev's work and those of the original Eurasianists.[1] Gumilev's work is controversial for its scientific methodology (the use of his own conception of ethnogenesis and the notion of "passionarity"). At any rate, Gumilev's work has been a source of inspiration for the Neo-Eurasianist authors, the most prolific of whom is Aleksandr Dugin.
 
Gumilev's contribution to Neo-Eurasianism lies in the conclusions he reaches from applying his theory of ethnogenesis: that the Mongol occupation of 1240–1480 AD (known as the "Mongol yoke") had shielded the emergent Russian ethnos from the aggressive neighbor to the West, allowing it to gain time to achieve maturity. The idea of Eurasianism contrasts with Konstantin Leontyev's Byzantism, which is similar in its rejection of the West, but identifies with the Byzantine Empire rather than with Central Asian tribal culture.
 
Greater Russia[edit]
 
Not to be confused with Great Russia.
 
Russia growth 1613–1914
Main article: Greater Russia
 
The movement is sometimes called the Greater Russia and is described as a political aspiration of pan-Russian nationalists and irredentists to retake some or all of the territories of the other republics of the former Soviet Union and territory of the former Russian Empire and amalgamate them into a single Russian state. Alexander Rutskoy, the Vice President of Russia from 1991–1993, asserted irredentist claims to Narva in Estonia, Crimea in Ukraine, and Ust-Kamenogorsk in Kazakhstan, among other territories.[2] The idea of a Greater Russia still has important relevance in Russian politics, as expanding the Russian state to include Belarus is an important topic in Russian political affairs, as well as the political aspirations of Russian nationalists especially in Moldova and Ukraine to have their people reintegrated with Russia.[3] Before war broke out between Russia and Georgia in 2008, Aleksandr Dugin visited South Ossetia and predicted, "Our troops will occupy the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the entire country, and perhaps even Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, which is historically part of Russia, anyway."[4] Ossetian president Eduard Kokoity is a Eurasianist and argues that South Ossetia never left the Russian Empire and should be part of Russia.[5]
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on February 24, 2015, 16:59:45
And more on the challenges that Russia faces today:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-35-billion-problem-worrying-vladimir-putin-more-more-than-ukrainian-sanctions-10045102.html

Quote
The $35 billion problem worrying Vladimir Putin much more than Ukrainian sanctions
 A recent ceasefire already looks set to crumble as fighting continues and Russia and Ukraine quibble over details of the agreement

Friday 13 February 2015

The Ukrainian ceasefire, tortuously reached over the past few days, already looks in danger of collapsing as reports emerge of continued fighting in the east of the country.
 
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was present at the talks, has warned EU leaders to prepare further sanctions against Russia should the ceasefire breakdown yet again.

But the Ukrainian situation may be the least of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s problems.

The Russian leader today announced a $35 billion anti-crisis spending plan, but admitted to reporters he did not know how best to implement the cash injection into the economy, a local Russian news station reported.

The economy aside, Russia faces its own threat from Islamic extremism, weak national institutions, increasing societal pressures, and looming unemployment.

1. Economic failings

 Russian oil giant Rosneft have their headquarters in Moscow

Western economic sanctions are – undoubtedly – having an adverse effect on the Russian economy. But they are not the whole story, and many businesses are still finding loopholes to circumvent them – as this Economist article demonstrates.

Joseph Dayan, Head of Markets at BCS Financial Group, Russia’s largest broker, told The Independent it was “misleading” to point to sanctions as being the chief economic problem in Russia but added: “The country is going into a crippling recession this year”.

“50 per cent of the Russian government’s income is derived from what you can take from the ground - oil and gas - and today oil is doing better but it is this huge dependency that is the main factor impacting the Russian economy.”

Mr Dayan continued: “In good times this is a plus, but in bad times it is a burden.”

“But they can survive under a year or two, even under sanctions, as long as oil prices do not dip below $50,” he said. If that happens, “it could all end very badly,” Mr Dayan claimed.

2. Weak institutions

 Supporters of Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny hold a rally in protest against court verdict at Manezhnaya Square in Moscow

Russia is ranked as among the most corrupt nations on the planet, scoring just 27 out of 100 (0: highly corrupt, 100: clean) in Transparency Internationals 2014 ranking. It came below countries such as Pakistan, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

What this corruption translates to (returning to the economy) is that since the Russian government slid back reforms – for example, re-taking many of the businesses that were privatised during the boom years – productivity and investment have slumped.

Put simply: there is no growth as a direct result of corruption. Previous sources of growth have been exhausted and investment requires protection of property right and enforcement of contracts – exactly what corruption dissuades.

3. Unemployment

Last month the first deputy prime minister warned Russians to expect a rise in unemployment.

Figures showed an eight-month high in December, just months after reaching a record low in August last year.

One of Mr Putin’s signature achievements has been to keep unemployment falling since 2000, should this slip he may begin to feel the pressure internally.

4. Societal pressures

 The Russian birthrate is falling

Two factors are important to remember here: firstly the turbulence of the economy; and secondly President Putin’s crackdown on social freedoms.

This crackdown, often targeting certain groups such as the LGBT community or press freedoms, has fuelled a wave of middle-class migration.

In 2013 more than 186,000 people left Russia. To put that in perspective, that’s five times as many as two years earlier according to state statistics agency figures quoted by business magazine Sekret Firmy.

Around 40,000 Russians applied for asylum in 2013, according to a UN report, 76 per cent more than in the previous year.

Added to these departures is Russia’s falling population. According to a recently published article by Yale Global the country’s shrinking population “is the result of deaths outnumbering births for nearly two decades without sufficient immigration to compensate for the deficit.”

5. Threat from Islamic extremism

 A video of a Chechen Isis fighter threatening Russia.

Last month a senior Russian diplomat claimed that more than 800 Russian nationals were fighting alongside Isis, also known as the Islamic State. New York security firm Soufan Group claims the number is nearer 2,000.

Russia is grappling with similar problems to that of Europe – namely rising nationalism and xenophobia, which pushes selected groups towards extremism.

Many of those allegedly fighting were from the Northern Caucasus Chechen province and an Isis video in August threatened to bring the war home. "We will liberate Chechnya and the Caucasus, Allah willing,” said one fighter in the video.

This area has already seen two separatist wars but had stabilised in recent years under Moscow, after a brief-lived Islamic uprising in 1999. Mr Putin, prime minster at the time, quickly crushed the rebellion.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on February 25, 2015, 00:19:42
Russia, the geographic expression, doesn't make much social, economic or political sense to me. There is a "natural" Russia which extends from somewhere around the Pirpet (Pinsk) Marshes (sorry Ukraine and Belarus) to the Urals ~ it is settled, Slavic (European) and Orthodox. Everything East of the Urals is something else ... Asian, at least in the sense that e.g. Afghanistan and Uzbekistan are Asian in Western Sibera, and Sinic/Mongol in Eastern Siberia.

It seems to me that the time is ripe for an all out political/diplomatic and, above all, economic attack on Russia with the aim of promoting rebellions and revolutions.

Perhaps, as I think the Chinese, wish, the end result will be to dismember Russia into at least three "new" states: traditional European Russia, a West Asian Siberian State and an East Asian Siberian State. Perhaps some other forms will present themselves.

I believe that what we have - Putin's kleptocracy - is bound to fail. I fear it may fail in some sort of violent, messy Götterdämmerung style climax; I hope it can be made to fail in a less violent, even faintly democratic manner - although I don't think Slavic and democratic go all that well together.

I believe that Russia can be 'beaten' and forced into some new configuration without Western military action ... I think economics (legitimate trade actions and sabotage) can do the trick.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on February 25, 2015, 02:05:18
Despite the fact that I don't think Russia is militarily as strong as Vlad wants us to believe I also think he can be brought down by other means.

I also think that the Russian Empire can naturally split into three parts.  One of them certainly stretches from the Pripet Marshes to the Urals and centers on Moscow.

But...  ;)

I don't think it extends any farther south than the tree line.  (What is the Russian equivalent of Red Deer>?). 

The second part is Siberia proper, east of the Urals and north of the tree line.

The third part is the problematic part. It extends from the Altai to the Carpathians and as far north as the treeline.  It has a common language family, Turkic and a common culture based on the horse.  It extends into Mongolia and Xinjiang, through the Stans and the Caucasus and into Turkey.

The Hordes of the Steppes have been a constant fear to Muscovy.  How would China react to a resurgence of the horsemen?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on February 25, 2015, 06:10:57
...

The Hordes of the Steppes have been a constant fear to Muscovy.  How would China react to a resurgence of the horsemen?


Same as they've done, again and again, for over a thousand years, since e.g. the Jin (金 - Gold), Yuan and Qing dynasties ... absorb and sinify them. :)

(http://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Sun-Tzu-victory-Meetville-Quotes-12989.jpg)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Lightguns on February 25, 2015, 08:42:46
Despite the fact that I don't think Russia is militarily as strong as Vlad wants us to believe I also think he can be brought down by other means.

I also think that the Russian Empire can naturally split into three parts.  One of them certainly stretches from the Pripet Marshes to the Urals and centers on Moscow.

But...  ;)

I don't think it extends any farther south than the tree line.  (What is the Russian equivalent of Red Deer>?). 

The second part is Siberia proper, east of the Urals and north of the tree line.

The third part is the problematic part. It extends from the Altai to the Carpathians and as far north as the treeline.  It has a common language family, Turkic and a common culture based on the horse.  It extends into Mongolia and Xinjiang, through the Stans and the Caucasus and into Turkey.

The Hordes of the Steppes have been a constant fear to Muscovy.  How would China react to a resurgence of the horsemen?

I find it interesting that alot of open source intelligence reports that the majority of the fighters going in are not Russian but Crimean-Russians.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MCG on February 25, 2015, 09:40:44
I find it interesting that alot of open source intelligence reports that the majority of the fighters going in are not Russian but Crimean-Russians.
I have not seen this claim.  Where did you find it?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on February 25, 2015, 10:09:31
Despite the fact that I don't think Russia is militarily as strong as Vlad wants us to believe I also think he can be brought down by other means.

I also think that the Russian Empire can naturally split into three parts.  One of them certainly stretches from the Pripet Marshes to the Urals and centers on Moscow.

But...  ;)

I don't think it extends any farther south than the tree line.  (What is the Russian equivalent of Red Deer>?). 

The second part is Siberia proper, east of the Urals and north of the tree line.

The third part is the problematic part. It extends from the Altai to the Carpathians and as far north as the treeline.  It has a common language family, Turkic and a common culture based on the horse.  It extends into Mongolia and Xinjiang, through the Stans and the Caucasus and into Turkey.

The Hordes of the Steppes have been a constant fear to Muscovy.  How would China react to a resurgence of the horsemen?

Sounds a bit like the "Intermediate Region" theory of geopolitics:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermediate_Region

Quote
The Intermediate Region is an established geopolitical model set forth in the 1970s by the Greek historian Dimitri Kitsikis, professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada.[1] According to this model, the Eurasian continent is composed of three regions; in addition to Western Europe and the Far East, a third region called the "Intermediate Region" found between the two constitutes a distinct civilization. It roughly covers Eastern Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on February 25, 2015, 11:42:00

Same as they've done, again and again, for over a thousand years, since e.g. the Jin (金 - Gold), Yuan and Qing dynasties ... absorb and sinify them. :)

(http://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Sun-Tzu-victory-Meetville-Quotes-12989.jpg)

Hmm.... I understand there are ways to make the process quite painless.

Funny how that absorption thing works:

Chlodio's outlaw Germans invade Paris, learn to speak ******* Latin and become the Franks
Rollo's outlaw Danes invade France, learn to speak French and become the Normans
William the *******'s Normans invade Sussex, learn to speak like the Angles and become English

Mongols invade China, set themselves up as overlords in Beijing and become Chinese - while the Han forget about why they have been fighting over the Yalu Bend for the last few millenia.

I can actuallly see an effective sinification programme working between the Iron Gates (the European ones where the Danube pierces the Carpathians and the Asian ones in the Altai which guard the Silk Road into China).  The memories of the Hordes are not so old there and the wealth and freedom that trade brought likely remains fresh.

 The issue remains what to do about Muscovy.  They fear the Tatar Yoke.  They want to be Westerners not Easterners.  And yet they can't stand us and fear us as well.  Just look at their troop dispositions.  What troops, air defenses and equipment they have are concentrated west of the Urals and in particular around Moscow.

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on February 25, 2015, 11:47:29
Sounds a bit like the "Intermediate Region" theory of geopolitics:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermediate_Region

Interesting bit about the Intermediate Region but I would be splitting it somewhere around Syria, where the Turks of the Steppes and the Arabs of the Middle East and North Africa are still duking it out for supremacy.

The Turks are to the Arabs what Horst and Hengest's Angles were to the Brits.  Too lazy to do their own fighting they invited strangers to do the work for them and are resentful to this day that the strangers became their masters.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Lightguns on February 25, 2015, 12:18:26
I have not seen this claim.  Where did you find it?

Gee, I am not sure now, I read it via a twitter link on two occasions, one was European and the Other Indian. 
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on February 25, 2015, 12:35:32
I don't understand why we wish to attack Russia, Putin or anyone else for that matter. 

Despite years of indoctrination to the contrary as a youth, Russia (or as it was then, the USSR) does not want anything more than to be the big kid in his own back yard.  Period.  And this back yard does not include Europe.  Of course, there's the whole matter of the Warsaw Pact, but let's not forget that Stalin, and later Kruschev, etc, had fresh memories of Europeans coming to Russia on the rampage, not the other way around.


Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on February 25, 2015, 12:41:48
fresh memories of Europeans coming to Russia on the rampage, not the other way around.

Napoleon and Hitler's invasions of Russia aside, aren't you forgetting at least 5 instances where the Russians went the other way?

1.)The 1956 Hungarian uprising( And all the Soviet armoured divisions that annihilated it)
2.) August 1968- Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.
3.) Soviet invasion of half of Poland when Hitler and Stalin partitioned Poland in Sept. 1939
4.) Soviet invasion of Finland in the 1940 "Winter War"
5.) Soviet occupation of the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Lativa and Estonia in 1940

Those memories are bound to be as fresh in the collective consciousness of the other countries involved as well.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on February 25, 2015, 13:31:08
Napoleon and Hitler's invasions of Russia aside, aren't you forgetting at least 5 instances where the Russians went the other way?

1.)The 1956 Hungarian uprising( And all the Soviet armoured divisions that annihilated it)
2.) August 1968- Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.
3.) Soviet invasion of half of Poland when Hitler and Stalin partitioned Poland in Sept. 1939
4.) Soviet invasion of Finland in the 1940 "Winter War"
5.) Soviet occupation of the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Lativa and Estonia in 1940

Those memories are bound to be as fresh in the collective consciousness of the other countries involved as well.
I don't forget those, but in terms of points 1, 2, 3 and 4, they all have the same thing in common: buffer zone. 

1956 and 1968 were about maintaining that zone (Both independent Slovakia and Hungary were belligerents in the "Great Patriotic War".  The Soviets didn't forget that)
1939 was about gaining more to that zone: Stalin knew that it would have to eventually come to blows with Germany, and the further west it started, the better.  As an aside, the territory gained in 1939 by the USSR is now part of Belarus and Ukraine.
1940 with Finland was a bit of an anomoly, but in the end, it was about buffer: Finland posed no threat to the USSR, but there were territorial "disputes"
Gaining the Baltic was similar to 1939 in Poland: again, gaining that zone.

In the end, right or wrong, the USSR saved itself by gaining that buffer zone in 1939 and 1940.  That makes little comfort for those in Poland and in the Baltic states today, however.  But in the end, had Germany started Barbarossa a few hundred km to the East, that war would surely have been ended in Germany's favour in late 1941.

Russia (Moscow) never forgot that, and they still remember, and when they see US armour literally metres from their border in Narva, they tend to get a bit a antsy. 


And now, after having seen Kyiv swing suddenly from "Russia Friendly" to "EU friendly" through a (perceived) coup d'état, they are full blown panic mode.  And this won't end well, I fear. 
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on February 25, 2015, 15:11:38
I don't understand why we wish to attack Russia, Putin or anyone else for that matter. 

Despite years of indoctrination to the contrary as a youth, Russia (or as it was then, the USSR) does not want anything more than to be the big kid in his own back yard.  Period.  And this back yard does not include Europe.  Of course, there's the whole matter of the Warsaw Pact, but let's not forget that Stalin, and later Kruschev, etc, had fresh memories of Europeans coming to Russia on the rampage, not the other way around.

I don't wish to "attack" Putin.  I wish that Putin would stop "attacking" Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia and would make nice with Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland - not to mention the whole of the EU. 

If he won't stop then I would prefer that some of his countrymen stop him.   Failing that - I FEAR - that leaving him alone is not an option. 

It becomes wearisome holding the shield over one's head and constantly backing up.  Sooner or later one is inclined to try to strike back.

And this has nothing to do with indoctrination.  It has everything to do with "what have they done for us lately?"

 :cheers:
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on February 25, 2015, 15:24:45
I don't understand why we wish to attack Russia, Putin or anyone else for that matter. 

Despite years of indoctrination to the contrary as a youth, Russia (or as it was then, the USSR) does not want anything more than to be the big kid in his own back yard.  Period.  And this back yard does not include Europe.  Of course, there's the whole matter of the Warsaw Pact, but let's not forget that Stalin, and later Kruschev, etc, had fresh memories of Europeans coming to Russia on the rampage, not the other way around.

While it is true that various peoples have invaded Russia over the centuries, it is equally true that the various nations that Russia sees as being in its sphere of influence are dead set against being part of the Russian anything, and are determined to become part and parcel of Europe and reap the benefits of being European. Russia may want to be the "Big Kid" on the block, but to the Balts, Finns, Ukrainians, Georgians and the nations of the "Near Beyond" Russia looks more like a bully who wants to steal their lunch money.

During the Cold War *we* could close our eyes and avoid the fact that most of the nations in the Warsaw Pact were held there in bondage and not by choice, mostly because any miscalculation would have ended up going nuclear. During the period between the fall of the wall and Putin's Munich 2007 speech, when nuclear conflict seemed to have been taken off the table, we were willing to accomodate the aspirations of the Eastern European nations to join the West, and I certainly recall that every possible means were also used to "invite" the Russians to take part in the banquet as well, from entering into the "G-X" groups to pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the Russian space program.

Russia's new ruling cliques seem to be determined to go back to older ways of thinking and acting, but they should also understand that by asserting themselves in that fashion, they are also inviting a huge amount of pushback.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on February 25, 2015, 15:48:46
I don't understand why we wish to attack Russia, Putin or anyone else for that matter. 

Despite years of indoctrination to the contrary as a youth, Russia (or as it was then, the USSR) does not want anything more than to be the big kid in his own back yard.  Period.  And this back yard does not include Europe.  Of course, there's the whole matter of the Warsaw Pact, but let's not forget that Stalin, and later Kruschev, etc, had fresh memories of Europeans coming to Russia on the rampage, not the other way around.
While what you're saying may be true, it's that bit in yellow becomes the contentious point:  who decides who's "Europe"?  Some places are pretty black and white, it's those pesky grey areas - including Ukraine, with bits of the country having historical links westward, and bits having historical links in the other direction - that cause grief.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on February 25, 2015, 18:02:48
That area is indeed grey and murky. Ukraine is riddled with ethnic Russians (among other groups), but I would offer that Germany is definitely not their backyard, nor Poland, (in spite of parts of East Prussia being part of Russia), but Ukraine is that grey belt, I suppose.

But for the other posters: we have much larger problems than a bunch of Slavs fighting each other. Neither group wants to horn in on us, nor has either threatened us.

Let's focus on things that matter to us, namely the very dangerous ISIS.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on February 25, 2015, 18:43:36
That area is indeed grey and murky. Ukraine is riddled with ethnic Russians (among other groups), but I would offer that Germany is definitely not their backyard, nor Poland, (in spite of parts of East Prussia being part of Russia), but Ukraine is that grey belt, I suppose.

But for the other posters: we have much larger problems than a bunch of Slavs fighting each other. Neither group wants to horn in on us, nor has either threatened us.

Let's focus on things that matter to us, namely the very dangerous ISIS.

Shirley! You Jest?
 
The Wogs have the intent but not the means.  The Slavs have the means (diminished) but not the intent (debatable).  Neither one represent a Clear and Present Danger (Thank You Tom Clancy) although neither one can be entirely ruled out as a threat.

Part of the reason for the rise of ISIS is the lack of the bipolar hegemony of the Cold War.  Actually I wouldn't mind a strong Russia.  The strong, silent type. Talking softly and carrying a big stick.  Offering the occasional carrot and generally being a good neighbour.

The reason Vlad spends so much time spouting off is because he has to appear strong and he knows he isn't.  The problem for him is that most folks in his neighbourhood also know that he isn't.  He is strong enough to make their lives miserable.  He is strong enough to utterly destroy them (if he doesn't mind a little bit of glow in the night skies around his borders).  What he isn't, is strong enough to compel them.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on February 25, 2015, 23:56:15
Hey guys,

The "war" is over and "we" have won. 

I mentioned this article http://www.cast.ru/files/book/NewArmy_sm.pdf here
http://army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,111881.msg1353771.html#msg1353771.

It absolutely has to be read. It demonstrates the Russian military complex has been infiltrated by Canadian bureaucrats who have imposed all the same policies on Russia as they have on you.

Helicopters bought against military advice to prop up a regional business (Ka52)

Anything that flies centralized under the Air Force, only to discover the Air Force is unresponsive to VDVs need to train paras and the Army's need to have helicopters available when they need them, which results in the Air Force helos being put under Army command and the Air Force being only tasked to train pilots.

Everything subordinated to four Joint Task Forces

Available equipment concentrated into a reduced number of units with reduced manpower.  Battlegroups are the standing operational force.  Units are understrength.  Recruiting is difficult.  Wives and Girlfriends hate the service.

Generals told to downsize but never seem to go away.  Command heavy.  Lacking in modern radars, PGMs and night fighting capabilities. 

Government telling Abn forces to use Armd vehicles that can't be lifted by the helos available.  Paras buying Polaris ATVs for trials with available helos......

And it goes on and on and on.....

Obviously these guys have all got their MBAs from Carleton and Phoenix.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on February 26, 2015, 00:02:12
That area is indeed grey and murky. Ukraine is riddled with ethnic Russians (among other groups), but I would offer that Germany is definitely not their backyard, nor Poland, (in spite of parts of East Prussia being part of Russia), but Ukraine is that grey belt, I suppose.

But for the other posters: we have much larger problems than a bunch of Slavs fighting each other. Neither group wants to horn in on us, nor has either threatened us.

Let's focus on things that matter to us, namely the very dangerous ISIS.


I don't think IS** is or is likely to become an existential threat to Canada or America or Europe, Australia, Japan, etc, etc ...

I think Russia is a threat, a real, measurable threat, to the peace and stability of Eurasia, and, therefore, a problem for the
US led West.

I think the best way to "handle" Russia is through an all out, sustained, crippling economic attack; the aim being to promote internal dissent, rebellion and revolution. I don't think the final "shape" of the outcome matters beyond Russia being reduced in power.

I think the best way to "handle" IS** is also through economics: First, "follow the money;" Second, find the money and block it; Third punish the sources of the money ~ and yes I am conscious of the fact that I advocate "punishing" (let's say assassinating) Saudi princes and Gulf State emirs and the like.

   (Broadly, I remain wedded to the notion of isolating, completely isolating, the Arab and West Asian worlds, from
    Palestine through to Pakistan, (excepting Jordan) ... nothing enters but arms, nothing comes here except payments - no immigrants, no parents,
    no students, no poor, innocent, sick children needing medical care ... nothing. I think isolation will also work against Russia.

    In the end i think most of the Islamic Crescent, which stretched from the Atlantic coast of North Africa through to
    the Indonesian archipelago, needs some, in most cases of lot, of something akin to 18th century European style enlightenment.
    My guess is that will not come until there is something akin to a reformation and that may need a long series
    of bloody internecine wars throughout the region, lasting generations.)

We don't need to spend huge amounts of troops or bombs - we can do some bombing or other combat - money should be the main weapon.

My guess is that Russia needs something different: just, really, a few "teeth" pulled so that it cannot disrupt its neighbourhood and will be forced to be a good better 'citizen.'
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on February 27, 2015, 16:55:00
So if Putin is replaced either in the near term (through economic and diplomatic actions) or long term (as his term in office ends), the question remains: What next? The American interest looks at this question, but there are few good answers right now:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/02/26/after-putin/

Quote
After Putin
Andrew Wood

Putin’s poll numbers may be sky high now, but not even he and his inner circle believe they will stay that way for long.
 
Eighty percent poll ratings, almost four years to go before the next elections, and the chance to stay until 2024—what’s not to like for Putin? The outside world, and the majority of Russians, suppose that he will stay that long, if not longer. However, if we were to judge by the actions of Putin and his immediate circle, we would conclude that they have little confidence in the durability of the people’s love for the Russian President.
 
Russia today is a state in thrall to a distorted narrative. Putin has to stay in control of that narrative. The institutional structures of the state have been deprived of their independent meaning, leaving the Kremlin, and therefore Putin, both exalted and isolated. There is a considerable range of questions about Putin personally and the system he has promoted that will not simply disappear. If only one of them were allowed to become a focus of public dissatisfaction, especially as a particular illustration of a wider problem, the regime would be threatened. Lies and repression remain necessities. So too now is the securely implanted perception of Fortress Russia, surrounded by enemies and doing its duty in Ukraine.
 
Putin’s sacralization as national leader is reinforced by the absence of any other visible contender for power and the interdiction of significant argument over policies determined through him. There is a constitutional process for his replacement as President in 2018 or 2024, as the case may be. If he left the Kremlin before presidential elections could be held on the regular timetable, then the Prime Minister, for now the poorly rated Medvedev, would act as interim President for three months.
 
But Putin will not go voluntarily. He would be taking a huge personal risk if he left office in 2018, or even, on present form, in 2024. Appointing his long term and obedient associate Medvedev in 2008 led in the end to the airing of unwelcome ideas and to street protests. Any successor to Putin now would be bound to show himself (or notionally herself) as seeking to become his own President; in case of need Putin would be the ideal scapegoat. But Putin is also the prisoner of the course he has followed since his return to the Kremlin in May 2012. The risks of that course are mounting, be they for Russia’s economy, for its confrontational relationship with the outside world (and not just the West), or for its internal stability.
 
There may well be those in Putin’s immediate circle who recognize the dangers they face over the next couple of years. It is possible that, if his health came into question, or if it seemed to them that he was ready to take some gamble too far, at least some of them might seek to combine against him. They have after all their fortunes and safety to look to. But they are also complicit in what has been done over the past fifteen years, and their overall objective would be to preserve the essential characteristics of this period. Few if any of Putin’s inner circle have political credibility. Choosing a safe successor would mean choosing the political orientation of the next President—supposing that plotting Putin’s overthrow were even a practicable option. A whiff of liberalization would bring its own risks. More intense Russian nationalism, others. A caretaker in case of ill health or Putin’s death would prolong the period of contention as to Russia’s future course, not resolve it.
 
Putin’s immediate colleagues are not the only Russians who have a stake in the present system and stand to lose from its decay. But the majority are beneficiaries rather than principal actors. Moscow remains the political center of Russia’s political life and fortunes. The present regime would not be so insistent on the dangers of color revolutions, or so willing to turn to semi-legal groups like anti-Maidan, exploit criminal groups and interests, or organize mass demonstrations, if Russia’s leaders were confident of their grip, even after reducing the 2011-12 protest movement to virtual impotence. Russia has become a country suspended in potential anarchy, not a state ready to evolve in harmony with itself.
 
Western policymakers need therefore to contemplate the risks of eventual breakdown in Russia. That is not to say that Russia is, for us, too big to fail. Nor is it to urge us to bring about regime change. Neither option is practicable or desirable for the West to prevent or to undertake. We should, however, act in the case of Ukraine in the knowledge that what Russia is doing there is not as the Kremlin claims because of the threat to Russia from the West, but because of the developing crisis within Russia itself. Putin is not to be appeased by Western concessions, or necessarily by the West abandoning Ukraine. The respect we owe to Russia is to its people, not to its regime. Change can now come only with a new regime, whose birth may well be rough.

Andrew Wood is an associate fellow of Chatham House and a former British Ambassador to Belgrade, and subsequently to Moscow (mid 1995–early 2000).
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Old Sweat on February 27, 2015, 20:36:12
Well, there is one less potential replacement as a Russian opposition leader was murdered the day before he was to lead an anti-Putin rally. The story demo the CBC site is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act.

Boris Nemtsov, Russian opposition leader, shot dead in Moscow
Nemtsov was to lead major anti-Putin rally in Moscow on Sunday
The Associated Press Posted: Feb 27, 2015 5:14 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 27, 2015 7:19 PM ET

   
Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic former deputy prime minister turned Russian opposition leader and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin was shot and killed in Moscow Saturday, officials said.

Nemtsov's death comes just a day before a planned protest against Putin's rule. The Kremlin said that Putin will personally oversee the investigation.

Nemtsov, who was 55, was a sharp critic of Putin, assailing the government's inefficiency, rampant corruption and the Kremlin's policy on Ukraine, which has strained Russia-West ties to a degree unseen since Cold War times.

The Russian Interior Ministry, which oversees Russia's police force, said that Nemtsov was shot four times from a passing car as he was walking a bridge just outside the Kremlin shortly after midnight.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Alexeyeva told reporters on the scene that Nemtsov was walking with a female acquaintance, a Ukrainian citizen, when a vehicle drove up and unidentified assailants shot him dead. The woman wasn't hurt.

Opposition activist Ilya Yashin said on Ekho Moskvy radio that he last spoke with Nemtsov two days before the killing. Nemtsov was working on a report presenting evidence that he believed proved Russia's direct involvement in the separatist rebellion that erupted in eastern Ukraine last year.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of backing the rebels there with troops and weapons. Moscow has denied the accusations, but large numbers of sophisticated heavy weapons in the rebels' possession has strained the credibility of its denials.

'Atmosphere of hatred'

Yashin said he had no doubt that Nemtsov's murder was politically motivated.

"Boris Nemtsov was a stark opposition leader who criticized the most important state officials in our country, including President Vladimir Putin. As we have seen, such criticism in Russia is dangerous for one's life," he said.

Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky told Ekho Mosvky radio station that he did not believe that Nemtsov's death would in any way serve Putin's interests.

"But the atmosphere of hatred toward alternative thinkers that has formed over the past year, since the annexation of Crimea, may have played its role," Belkovsky said, referring to the surge of intense and officially endorsed nationalist discourse increasingly prevalent in Russia since it annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Nemtsov served a deputy prime minister in the 1990s and once was seen as a possible successor to Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first elected president. After Putin was first elected in 2000, Nemtsov became one of the most vocal critics of his rule. He helped organize street protests and has relentlessly exposed official corruption.

He was one of the organizers of the Spring March opposition protest set for Sunday, which comes amid a severe economic downturn in Russia caused by low oil prices and Western sanctions.

Earlier this month, Nemtsov told a Russian television news station in an interview that he feared he might be killed.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson called the murder an "outrage" and said Canada is monitoring the situation in a tweet. 

The White House released a statement Friday evening condemning Nemtsov's murder.

"We call on the Russian government conduct a prompt, impartial and transparent investigation and ensure those responsible are brought to justice," the statement said.

Russian chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov, who himself is a vocal critic of Putin's government, tweeted that he was "devastated to hear about the brutal murder of my long-time opposition colleague Boris Nemtsov."
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Good2Golf on February 28, 2015, 10:00:31
Quote
The Kremlin said that Putin will personally oversee the investigation.

As though that would be a good thing...I'm sure he will.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Rifleman62 on February 28, 2015, 13:46:25
Quote
The Kremlin said that Putin will personally oversee the investigation.

Sympathy for the poor innocent sod who is going to take the fall for this.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on February 28, 2015, 15:15:19
The Kremlin said that Putin will personally oversee the investigation.
(http://media.tumblr.com/9d7727553901c25da9cb2c726ca2388e/tumblr_inline_ndvc40uzeK1r4j8j1.gif)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on February 28, 2015, 21:12:55
Quote
It was Keyser Soze, Agent Kujan. I mean the Devil himself. How do you shoot the Devil in the back? What if you miss?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Hamish Seggie on February 28, 2015, 22:07:39
A typically Soviet solution to an annoying problem - kill it. Not surprising and not new.

Stalin ordered Trotsky's death. Stalin also purged the military prior to World War Two.

There was a chap killed in London by ricin poisoning in the 80s and another not long ago by radiation poisoning.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Retired AF Guy on February 28, 2015, 22:42:57
A typically Soviet solution to an annoying problem - kill it. Not surprising and not new.

Putin's version of  Thomas Becket.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Becket)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Robert0288 on March 01, 2015, 02:05:09
Anyone want to start a poll if it's going to be Chechens, Georgians, or terrorist Ukrainians blamed for it?  Or maybe some political ally who was fighting for power within the same party.  Good way to get rid of multiple problems at once.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Hamish Seggie on March 01, 2015, 12:57:18
"Death is the solution to all problems. No man - no problems"

Joseph Stalin

It appears Uncle Vlad agrees with this.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on March 01, 2015, 14:20:12
Anyone want to start a poll if it's going to be Chechens, Georgians, or terrorist Ukrainians blamed for it?  Or maybe some political ally who was fighting for power within the same party.  Good way to get rid of multiple problems at once.

One of the many story lines coming out of the government is that the Opposition had him killed to make him a martyr for the cause, and more powerful in death than in life.

My money is on Putin telling the truth. About as likely as anything else. ::)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Hamish Seggie on March 01, 2015, 14:54:03
One of the many story lines coming out of the government is that the Opposition had him killed to make him a martyr for the cause, and more powerful in death than in life.

My money is on Putin telling the truth. About as likely as anything else. ::)

Is this a Slavic thing? I recall similar things happening during the 90s in the Balkans.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on March 01, 2015, 19:26:25
Is this a Slavic thing? I recall similar things happening during the 90s in the Balkans.

More likely regimes that grew out of the former Soviet / Communist era "Truths"
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 01, 2015, 19:47:17
Quote
NORMALLY a boisterous sort, Peter Pomerantsev says he kept quiet when he found himself, at the age of 24, in a Moscow meeting room listening to 20 of the country’s top media executives discussing the news agenda for the week.

Not what the news was, but what they would make it,
said Mr. Pomerantsev, the author of a recent book chronicling the moral and financial corruption of modern-day Moscow and the manipulation of a Russian television industry that he later joined.

He listened in amazement, he says, as a prominent news anchor reviewed the coming events as if they were part of a film script, musing on how best to entertain the audience and questioning who that week’s enemy should be.

“It was shocking,” said Mr. Pomerantsev, speaking over coffee in London last month. “They really saw television and news as a movie, and talked about it as a movie.”

That was in 2002.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/14/world/europe/russian-tv-insider-says-putin-is-running-the-show-in-ukraine.html?_r=0

Quote
Mr. Pomerantsev’s area of study is propaganda, and he believes he saw many classic techniques at work in Moscow. He says one favorite trick was to put a credible expert next to a neo-Nazi, juxtaposing fact with fiction so as to encourage so much cynicism that viewers believed very little. Another was to give credence to conspiracy theories — by definition difficult to rebut because their proponents are immune to reasoned debate.

“What they are basically trying to undermine is the idea of a reality-based conversation,” Mr. Pomerantsev said, “and to use the idea of a plurality of truths to feed disinformation, which in the end looks to trash the information space.”

Quote
During Mr. Putin’s first stint in the presidency, slick techniques imported from the West helped engineer a spectacular rise in his approval ratings. They are now being deployed, not just against Western policies, but against basic Western values, Mr. Pomerantsev argues.

“It’s not so much an information war, but a war on information,” he said.

Believe exactly what you want to believe.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Sean Murray on March 02, 2015, 13:14:49
Here is a link from Vice News covering a pro-Putin march in Russia following the assassination of Boris Nemtsov. It is amazing how much support Putin has.

https://news.vice.com/video/thousands-attend-pro-putin-rally-moscows-anti-maidan-march
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on March 02, 2015, 21:00:36
Here is a link from Vice News covering a pro-Putin march in Russia following the assassination of Boris Nemtsov. It is amazing how much support Putin has.

https://news.vice.com/video/thousands-attend-pro-putin-rally-moscows-anti-maidan-march

Just need to know the correct incentives to use to motivate the masses. Loss of jobs, loss of housing, imprisonment all make good incentives. So does cash, alcohol, and certain perks.

Damn. There I go getting all cynical again. :nod:
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 02, 2015, 21:16:14
I mentioned this article http://www.cast.ru/files/book/NewArmy_sm.pdf here
http://army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,111881.msg1353771.html#msg1353771.

That was the Russian perspective on Russia circa 2011.

Here is a Swedish perspective on Russia circa July 2013 - or as the Swedes put it, "in the wake of the major anti-regime demonstrations in 2011–2012"

http://www.foi.se/ReportFiles/foir_3734.pdf 

Like the Russian review it is a series of essays and runs to 160 pages.  Lots of good information about strengths of units, quality of units, deployability availability, ability to defend, ability to launch strikes.....


"Both the political and the military leadership in Russia apparently sense a great deal of insecurity."

The Swedish take on the Russian situation is much the same as the earlier Russian take.  Russia is weak and getting weaker but strong enough to make life difficult and dangerous.

This was published about 5 months before the Maidan was occupied, 8 months before Yanukovych was deposed and Crimean Russians voted for Anschluss.


Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Hamish Seggie on March 02, 2015, 22:23:28
Just need to know the correct incentives to use to motivate the masses. Loss of jobs, loss of housing, imprisonment all make good incentives. So does cash, alcohol, and certain perks.

Damn.

Certain perks meaning you get to stay alive til Comrade Vlad needs some more support....

Correct incentives means your family gets to eat today......
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 09, 2015, 22:29:26
While this might be the "best" outcome for us, I suspect that Vlad has a few tricks up his sleeve, and am also reminded that historically, failing governments or States often use foreign adventures and wars to distract the population from the problems at home:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/03/russia-could-have-depression-currency.html

Quote
Russia could have depression, currency crisis and distressed sale of assets in 2015
 
Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics predicts a 10% decline in Russia's 2015 GDP.

Since November 2014, it has been obvious that the Russian economy would shrink sharply this year, and the January statistics indicate a serious decline has started. The Russian Ministry of Economic Development has forecast a decline of GDP of 3 percent this year, while the Central Bank of Russia predicts a decline of 4.5 to 5 percent at an oil price of $50 per barrel. These forecasts appear overly optimistic. An abrupt fall of 10 percent seems more likely, because key Russian indicators look worse than in 2009, when Russia's GDP contracted by 8 percent.

Another proposed definition of depression includes two general rules:

a decline in real GDP exceeding 10%, or
a recession lasting 2 or more years.

Worldwide GDP fell by 15% from 1929 to 1932. Between 1929 and 1933, the gross national product of the United States decreased by 33% while the rate of unemployment increased to 25%.

In July 2014, the United States and the European Union imposed serious financial sanctions on Russia. In parallel, the global oil price started falling and with it the ruble. As if these factors were not bad enough, the Kremlin is pursuing an economic policy that aggravates the decline.

Tightened Western financial regulations have made the Western financial sanctions more severe than expected. The official Russian currency reserves are still large at $368 billion on February 13, but they have fallen by $110 billion since July 2014. However, the situation is considerably worse. The Ministry of Finance controls two sovereign wealth funds, the Reserve Fund with $88 billion and the National Welfare Fund with $78 billion on February 1. These funds will be used for bailouts of companies and infrastructure investments and are not real international reserves. The government plans to spend half of its Reserve Fund this year. In addition, the Central Bank of Russia holds gold worth $49 billion.

The liquid international reserves held by the Central Bank of Russia have declined from $257 billion on July 1 to $153 billion on February 13. Considering that Russia's foreign indebtedness is almost $600 billion and the expected currency outflow is about $100 billion this year, Russia's reserve situation is approaching a critical limit. At present, Russia loses more than $10 billion a month, which means that a real reserve crisis will erupt in the third quarter.

Even the official Russian reserve reports from the Russian Central bank have Russia on pace to have closer to $200 billion by the end of the year.

Will there be an emergency sale of oil and gas fields to China ?

Russian officials are saying there would now be "no political obstacles" to allowing Chinese stockholders to hold more than 50 percent of large oil and gas fields.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Hamish Seggie on March 13, 2015, 02:08:37
http://www.redflagnews.com/headlines-2015/developing-unconfirmed-russian-internet-rumors-that-vladimir-putin-is-dead

Anyone got any info on Uncle Vlad?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MCG on March 13, 2015, 02:27:05
The only thing I have seen were denials of health problems as reported by BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-31849925
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Retired AF Guy on March 13, 2015, 21:05:51
Well there have been several announcements on various websites (e.g. debka news) saying that the Kremlin has told journalists not to leave Moscow in anticipation of a major announcement, but nothing from any mainstream agency.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: cupper on March 13, 2015, 21:28:26
Hmmm. Maybe during his investigation of the Nemtsov killing he discovered that it was he who ordered the hit, so he's had himself arrested, and is currently holding himself deep in the bowels of the Lubyanka Prison undergoing a vigorous interrogation being performed by the only man who is fully capable persuading the truth from himself, Himself.  ;D
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Retired AF Guy on March 14, 2015, 11:59:35
The New York Post is reporting that Putin is in Switzerland for the birth of his "love child."

Quote
Missing Putin found after ‘birth of love child’

By Geoff Earle

March 13, 2015 | 5:30pm

WASHINGTON — From Russia, with love child. Vladimir Putin hasn’t been seen in public for more than a week — and rampant speculation over the Russian president’s whereabouts took a wild turn on Friday with reports he was in Switzerland for the birth of his secret daughter.

“Es ist ein Madchen!” or “It’s a Girl!” screamed a headline from the Swiss newspaper Blick, which had him in Lugano to witness the arrival of his child with Alina Kabaeva, 31, a retired Olympic gymnast who served in the Russian parliament and now works for a media company.

The paper reported that Putin’s daughter was born at the posh Santa Anna di Sorgeno clinic on the Italian border.

Putin reserved two rooms at the clinic — one for Kabaeva, and one for body guards, Swiss radio channel RSI said, according to the Daily Beast.

Putin himself was staying with friends in the area, the Swiss website Ticino news reported.

Desperate to squash the rumors, the Kremlin released a photo and video Friday of the 62-year old Russian strongman meeting with the head of the Russian Supreme Court.

But there was no way to verify when they were taken, and plenty of reason for suspicion.

On Wednesday, the government issued a picture of a meeting between Putin and the regional governor of Karelia, but the Russian newspaper RBC said the meeting actually took place March 4.

There has been no verified Putin sightings since March 5, when he appeared at a press conference in Moscow with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Two canceled meetings since then have Kremlin watchers furiously trying to figure out where Putin is and what he’s doing.

Putin has two adult children with his ex-wife, Lyudmila Shkrebneva, and has insisted he has no relationship with the gymnast.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov denied the love child stories.

“The information on a baby born to Vladimir Putin is false,” Peskov said. “I am going to ask people who have money to organize a contest on the best media rumor.”

Other speculation about what’s behind Putin’s vanishing act range from health problems to a power struggle in the Kremlin. Peskov’s poetic denials – and the Kremlin’s reputation for obfuscation — did little to tamp down the persistent questions.

At one point, he claimed there was “no need to worry” about Putin’s health because. “His handshake is so strong he breaks hands with it.”

Article link. (http://nypost.com/2015/03/13/putin-in-switzerland-for-birth-of-his-lovechild/)
More speculation to follow I'm sure.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Good2Golf on March 14, 2015, 12:05:47
Hmmm....google-fu only show up this person when searching for "ALINA KABAEVA."  I though Vlad prefers riding horses, shirtless?

(http://i.huffpost.com/gen/2064370/thumbs/o-ALINA-KABAEVA-570.jpg?1)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Larry Strong on March 14, 2015, 14:53:58
Hmmm....google-fu only show up this person when searching for "ALINA KABAEVA."  I though Vlad prefers riding horses, shirtless?

(http://i.huffpost.com/gen/2064370/thumbs/o-ALINA-KABAEVA-570.jpg?1)


https://www.google.ca/?gws_rd=ssl#q=+Alina+Kabaeva%2C+31


Cheers
Larry
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 14, 2015, 15:52:55
Hmmm....google-fu only show up this person when searching for "ALINA KABAEVA."  I though Vlad prefers riding horses, shirtless?

(http://i.huffpost.com/gen/2064370/thumbs/o-ALINA-KABAEVA-570.jpg?1)

I'm sure you meant to say "bareback".  Right?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 15, 2015, 20:45:01
Interesting comparison of Vladimir Putin to the Tyrants of ancient Greece. While like most analogies it fails if pushed too far, it is still an interesting read:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/03/13/the-tyrants-hopelessness/

Quote
The Tyrant’s Hopelessness
JAKUB GRYGIEL
The ancients knew: to understand a tyranny, you have to understand the tyrant’s soul.

Tyrants, degenerate kings who ruled according to their own will and not the law, occurred relatively frequently in the history of ancient Greece (with the exception of Sparta) and Rome. They are also the protagonists of tragedies, dialogues, and histories written by classic authors, from Herodotus to Tacitus, from Plato to Cicero. The ancients found the term “tyrant” appropriate as a descriptor for a corrupted form of political regime based on personal rule, as well as a useful analytical tool. They were correct then. More importantly, they are still correct now.

Regrettably, modern language and thought have effectively expunged the word “tyrant” from our lexicon, diminishing our ability to assess many of our enemies. In modern times the simple definition, as mentioned above, is deemed to be unsophisticated. It puts a lot of emphasis on the individual leader, whereas we prefer to seek explanations in large impersonal forces, ranging from contests of ideas and economic systems or the élan of the masses. We are also wary of embracing a “great man” view of history because this assigns responsibility to an individual for political outcomes, and there seems to be a widespread allergy to accountability. (Hence, “mistakes have been made”, rather than “I made a mistake”, is a common talking point for today’s leaders.)

Furthermore, to call a political leader a “tyrant” is to impart a nefarious connotation and to render judgment that a leader is personally responsible for the brutality of his state in its domestic as well as foreign acts. The modern presumption, since perhaps Weber, is that political analysis ought to be pursued not so much sine ira et studio (as Tacitus put it in the first lines of his Annales) but without expressing moral judgments. Calling somebody a tyrant expresses a “value judgment,” and carries a tinge of anger and partiality too. For the well-heeled modern mind, “tyrant” is a slur, not an analytical concept. Hence, we prefer to study the institutional arrangements that may be less than optimal for freedom, to measure the material conditions that impede the exercise of freedom, or to ignore in toto the reality of a tyrant by adopting euphemisms such as “rogue state” or “strongman.”

Another source of the modern skepticism toward the term “tyrant” is the belief that the 20th-century version of dictatorship has been marked by the lethal and unique combination of ideology and science. The modern dictators—Hitler and Stalin come to mind—are essentially deadly managers of ideological dogmas and scientific tools (giving rise to a “dark age, made more sinister, and perhaps more prolonged, by the lights of a perverted science” as Winston Churchill famously said)—racial purity and paganism combined with armored divisions and gas chambers, atheistic materialism prodded by the atom and industrial power. The resulting totalitarian systems were thus more than anything an individual tyrant could erect. They were all-pervasive political systems, and could not sustain themselves by the sheer will of one tyrant.

But there is still an analytical place for tyrants. In fact, many of today’s strongmen—say, Vladimir Putin—resemble more ancient tyrants than modern ones. Ideology and science play less of a role in their hold on power. Today’s tyrants are ideological opportunists—postmodern leaders who shape their “narrative” according to public relations needs. They also face science, or technology, which can strengthen their rule but also has ways of undermining it. Instead, today’s tyrants exercise personal rule through brute force and murder, but also through skillful cooptation of society. They are good pupils of Niccolò Machiavelli, and expend energies to avoid being hated by the majority of their subjects. They are feared, to be sure, but they buy the servility or docility of their populations through economic welfare and propaganda.

Putin’s tyranny, for instance, is built on targeted violence (the recent assassination of Boris Nemtsov is one in a long list), propaganda (the television channel “Russia Today”, the most visible tool abroad, is just one part of a much larger apparatus of disinformation), nationalism (the invention of “Novorossiya” as a distinct Russian land encompassing, of course, the Donbas region is one example) and bribery of Russians (a project that may be more difficult to continue given the fiscal troubles of the regime). It is personal rule, maintained for the personal benefit of the leader. A tyrant is a violent narcissist. And his will trumps all law, positive and natural.

What do ancient writers say about tyranny, then?

A useful ancient text to understand tyrants—and for our purposes, how tyrants may behave in their foreign relations—is a minor work by Xenophon of Athens (430–354 BC). A student of Socrates, he wrote, among many other dialogues, treatises, and histories (notably, the Anabasis), Hiero or Tyrannicus, a brief dialogue between the eponymous tyrant of Syracuse and the poet Simonides. Somewhat forgotten, this short text was brought back to our attention by Leo Strauss, who in 1948 wrote On Tyranny, a commentary that spurred a vibrant debate on Xenophon as well as on the wider subject. While the dialogue revolves around the question of whether tyrants can be happy (the answer is no, not really—in large measure because they must remain dissatisfied hedonists), it also offers a window into the minds of these solitary rulers whose will is the law of the land.

In Xenophon’s description, tyrants have a few particular traits that, by implication, make them behave in unique, distinguishable ways.

The first, and perhaps most striking, characteristic of a tyrant is that he has little hope. As Xenophon writes, “in this pleasure of hope [tyrants] are worse off than private men” (1:18). The subject of the discussion at this point of the dialogue between Hiero and Simonides is the pleasure of food and how the ability to be served with every conceivable delectable deprives the tyrant of the pleasant expectation of something he cannot obtain. But the point is larger: tyrants can get anything they want in great abundance—horses, gold, food, and women—and as a consequence they lack the anticipation of greater delights. Fantastic wealth and absolute power are not the sources of joy but of constant disappointment. What we see of tyrants is their wealth and castles—in Putin’s case, his expensive watches, gold-laden mansions, and bank accounts—but this does not tell us much about them. As Hiero says, this “keeps what is harsh hidden in the tyrants’ soul, where human happiness and unhappiness are stored up…. [T]his escapes the notice of the multitude.” (2: 4-5).

Why does this matter? Who cares if a tyrant is unhappy or, perhaps more crassly, if he is a hedonist unable to enjoy pleasure? The darkness of a tyrant’s soul is no private predicament because it alters his outlook, and hence his behavior. The inability to hope leads to a lack of appreciation of the future. The expectation of a better tomorrow—in terms of more scrumptious food or a more just and peaceful political environment—can create incentives to moderate one’s behavior in the present as a means of achieving goals. Or to be more precise, it makes personal sacrifices possible: one works hard to build something for tomorrow, or saves money to acquire a possession later on. A tyrant lacks this sense, according to Hiero’s argument; his is a barren soul, incapable of understanding the benefits of personal sacrifice.

The result is not inaction or peace. On the contrary, a hopeless tyrant is “insolent” and lives off constant and destructive plunder. The poet Simonides understands the tyrant when he explains that “it is inbred in some human beings, just as in horses, to be insolent in proportion as the needs they have are more fully satisfied” (10:1). Aristotle went even further, writing that “the greatest crimes are caused by excess and not by necessity. Men do not become tyrants in order that they may not suffer cold” (Aristotle, Politics, Book II, Part 7). Xenophon, through Hiero, admits that “tyrants are compelled most of the time to plunder unjustly both temples and human beings, because they always need additional money to meet their necessary expenses. For, as if there were a perpetual war on, [tyrants] are compelled to support an army or perish.” (4:11) Incapable of hope, living in fear of losing what he has, the tyrant is constantly preying on his own subjects but also on subjects of neighboring states.

Another source of a tyrant’s myopia is implied in the above description. Tyrants are perennially insecure. Their lives are ruled by the desire—and the need—to hold on to power, a preoccupation that is always immediate.

Xenophon describes the fear with which tyrants must travel. They all “proceed everywhere as through hostile territory” (2:8). All men tend to experience risks in foreign territory, but only tyrants “know that when they reach their own city they are then in the midst of the largest number of their enemies.”(2:9). A tyrant is therefore a “soul distracted by fears” (6:5), who believes he sees “enemies not only in front of [him], but on every side” (6:8). Euripides also observes in a fragment of a lost tragedy that the “tyrant must ruin his friends and put them to death; he lives in very great fear that they will do him harm.” The tyrant’s life is constantly at risk: there may be no tomorrow if today the tyrant stops increasing his domination of others, acquiring greater wealth, accumulating more power, and consequently plundering ever more. Xenophon again: “Their largest and most necessary expenses go to guard their lives” (4:9).

For the tyrant, the future is irrelevant because the present is perennially at risk. Or, another way of putting this is that the tyrant is a narcissist whose only preoccupation is his own wellbeing and survival. The future is circumscribed to his own personal survival, no matter what the costs may be.

A tyrant is a shark who perishes when he stops swimming, as George Weigel comments on Putin; the tyrant dies (or rather, is killed because few retire peacefully) when he stops dominating others.

Two immediate consequences, relevant for how we assess the strategic interactions with today’s tyrants such as Putin, stem from this ancient wisdom.

First, threatening a tyrant with future costs is ineffective. In War and Human Nature, Harvard professor Stephen Rosen observes, “Tyrannies have shorter time horizons within which strategic costs and benefits are calculated. Specifically, tyrannies [are] prone to be strongly affected by incentives and disincentives that appear near in time to the moment of choice.” What speaks to a tyrant is costs or pain that can be imposed here and now; tomorrow is less relevant. In practical terms, this may mean that imposing economic sanctions on a tyrant is less effective because the costs of such punishment will become a reality slowly, at some future point. As such, sanctions are less likely to alter a tyrant’s behavior today or in the immediate future.

Second, tyrants do not understand the concept of peace. The tyrant of Syracuse, Hiero, explains to the poet Simonides that “for private men, relief from war is brought about both by treaties and by peace. Whereas for tyrants peace is never made with those subject to their tyranny; nor could the tyrant be confident trusting for a moment to a treaty.” (2:11) The constant, perennial war that the tyrant himself is causing means that even when he has killed the enemy he feared, he cannot rest and be glad (2:18). In brief, one would be foolish to trust a treaty or ceasefire or even a “peace” with a tyrant. He is inherently incapable of respecting it.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 17, 2015, 11:50:56
Unbelievably, we are still not ready for prime time against Russian "Hybrid Warfare", despite seeing it in action in Georgia in 2008, Crimea and Ukraine starting in 2014 and watching "shaping" operations even now:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/03/16/hard-power-gestures-from-russia-and-the-west/

Quote
Hard Power Gestures from Russia and the West

After reappearing triumphantly following a mysterious absence, Vladimir Putin ordered a massive military drill during which personnel will be on high alert. Bloomberg News reports:
 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops placed on full combat readiness in snap drills in western Russia, as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned the country was facing new threats to its security.
 
Some 38,000 troops, 41 warships, 15 submarines and 110 aircraft are involved in the exercises, Shoigu said on Monday, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement. “New challenges and threats to military security demand a further increase in the military capabilities of the armed forces,” Shoigu said, the Interfax news service reported.
 
According to Russian state media, the drills are a response to Western and specifically NATO exercises encroaching on Russia’s breathing room. CNN reports on the strongest of these hard power gestures:
 

The U.S. Army says it will soon be sending armored Stryker vehicles on a 1,100-mile convoy through six European countries to show solidarity to allies in the wake of recent Russian actions in the Ukraine and Crimea that have Eastern Europe on edge.
 
The move was first reported Thursday in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. U.S. Army Europe posted the Stripes story on its website on Friday.
 
The convoy is “a highly visible demonstration of U.S, commitment to its NATO allies and demonstrating NATO’s ability to move military forces freely across allied borders in close cooperation,” U.S. Army Europe spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Childs, said in a statement, according to the Stripes report.
 
The troops and vehicles involved will be moving from training exercises conducted as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, the report said. They’ll move through Latvia and the Czech Republic as they make their way to Vilseck, Germany, about a 40 miles drive from the Czech border.
 
NATO’s very visible renewed efforts in eastern Europe are a nice gesture to soothe the nerves of rattled allies, but physical presence alone is unlikely to prove terribly effective against Russia’s hybrid war doctrine. The odds that Russia would roll a tank battalion into sovereign territory are much lower than a seemingly ‘organic’ uprising of ethnically Russian citizens taking place somwhere like Estonia or Latvia (where Russians represent as much as a quarter of the population). Above all, Russia’s hybrid war gambit demands that it maintain plausible deniability about its involvement, all while creating a situation beyond the West’s will or ability to repair.
 
The ugly truth is that hard power alone may not deter Putin (nor, unfortunately, any of his likely successors) from trying to rattle the cage. NATO currently lacks its own doctrine for dealing with what on the surface may look like a popular uprising in a member country—short of invasion, what is the threshold for invoking Article V? Hybrid warfare is ultimately a shadow struggle led by intelligence agencies, a struggle in which a conventional military alliance can be easily wrong-footed by a nimbler foe. We may well not see it discussed with the press, but we hope that Western planners are well aware of the imbalance facing NATO and are doing their utmost to compensate however they best can.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Good2Golf on March 17, 2015, 12:34:17
Is not the West engaging in a type of hybrid warfare with Russia on the economic front?  The country sliding towards a full-on recession may significantly impact Russia's ability to continue imposing its will on the region.  Did I misread my von Clausewitz?

Regards
G2G
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 17, 2015, 12:49:48
Is not the West engaging in a type of hybrid warfare with Russia on the economic front?  The country sliding towards a full-on recession may significantly impact Russia's ability to continue imposing its will on the region.  Did I misread my von Clausewitz?

Regards
G2G

Given that the main driver of the economic warfare project seems to be Saudi Arabia (which has its own reasons to cripple Russia, particularly the support Russia gives Iran and its proxy, Syria), and *we* have been generally slow and irresolute (and not even consistent) in our use of the economic sanction weapon, as well as being pretty much outclassed on the information warfare front,  I'd say that generally we have been more lucky and opportunistic in our ability to react to the crisis in Ukraine, and certainly haven't demonstrated the ability to counter or supress the "shaping" activities in the Baltic Republics and elsewhere. If (for example) the ethnic Russian population of Latvia "spontaniously" demands Russian protection, we will be totally flat footed.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: tomahawk6 on March 17, 2015, 13:44:59
How Russia went from Democracy to one man rule - again !!
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MilEME09 on March 17, 2015, 13:48:01
How Russia went from Democracy to one man rule - again !!
The key was he was so popular most didn't care, and his information control is top notch so Russians believe anything state media tell them, or atleast most do
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Good2Golf on March 17, 2015, 14:22:27
Given that the main driver of the economic warfare project seems to be Saudi Arabia (which has its own reasons to cripple Russia, particularly the support Russia gives Iran and its proxy, Syria), and *we* have been generally slow and irresolute (and not even consistent) in our use of the economic sanction weapon, as well as being pretty much outclassed on the information warfare front,  I'd say that generally we have been more lucky and opportunistic in our ability to react to the crisis in Ukraine, and certainly haven't demonstrated the ability to counter or supress the "shaping" activities in the Baltic Republics and elsewhere. If (for example) the ethnic Russian population of Latvia "spontaniously" demands Russian protection, we will be totally flat footed.

I was refering less on petro-related efforts, on which I agree with your assessment on the maint target being KSA, vice RUS, and more on the sanctions impost on Putin's 22 cronies comprising the senior level of the RUS kleptocracy. 

I do agree with you, however, on the poor performance rating I would give the West regarding more directly shaping a response to the RUS use of force in the region.

Regards,
G2G
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Robert0288 on March 17, 2015, 14:47:05
The key was he was so popular most didn't care, and his information control is top notch so Russians believe anything state media tell them, or atleast most do

Unfortunately, western news has gotten so bad many people here see Russian news as news rather than an extension of the Russian government and a key piece of their propaganda machine.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 19, 2015, 11:45:56
The Baltic Republics are pretty open and vocal about preparing to resist the "Hybrid Warfare" strategy of the Russians. While being forewarned and forearmed, the Balts only have a tiny pool of manpower and are not economically strong enough to stay mobilized for prolonged periods, so the next few years are going to be difficult for them.

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/international/europe/2015/03/18/nato-allies-brace-for-russias-hybrid-warfare/24979545/

Quote
NATO Allies Brace for Russia's 'Hybrid Warfare'
Agence France-Presse 5:40 p.m. EDT March 18, 2015

RIGA, Latvia — NATO allies are scrambling to protect vulnerable Baltic partners from the threat of hybrid warfare, a Russian tactic that officials and experts say is based on deception rather than formal declaration of war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's use of anonymous "little green men" to slice Crimea away from Ukraine last year sent alarm bells ringing throughout the three small Baltic NATO and EU members.

They endured decades of Soviet occupation after the Red Army rolled in during World War II. While a full-scale invasion is improbable now, hybrid meddling and destabilization tactics designed to test NATO's commitment to collective defense are not.

Putin's brand of hybrid warfare also relies on "misinformation, bribery, economic pressure," which are designed to "undermine the nation," according to Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite did not mince her words when she said: "The first stage of confrontation is taking place — I mean informational war, propaganda and cyber attacks. So we are already under attack."

Trojan Horse

According to James Sherr of Britain's Chatham House think-tank, hybrid warfare is "designed to cripple a state before that state even realizes the conflict has begun.

"It's a model of warfare designed to slip under NATO's threshold of perception and reaction."

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow has called it a modern example of the ancient Trojan Horse tactic.

NATO is "looking at how we prepare for, deter, and — if required — defend against hybrid threats," the former US ambassador to Moscow said recently at a security conference in the Latvian capital Riga.

Not to be caught off guard amid an increased Russian military presence in the Baltic, alliance members have mounted a series of troop rotations into the region.

The United States also deployed a cargo ship full of heavy armor there this month, including helicopters and tanks for exercises dubbed Atlantic Resolve.

NATO will boost defenses on Europe's eastern flank with a spearhead force of 5,000 troops and command centers in six formerly communist members of the alliance: the Baltic states and Bulgaria, Poland and Romania.

Lithuania revived its pre-WWII Riflemen's Union to help deter the threat of both conventional and hybrid warfare.

The citizens' militia boasts over 8,000 members in the nation of three million people, a number almost on par with its 8,000 military personnel and 4,500 reservists.

'Media Weaponization'

With roughly a quarter of the populations of Estonia and Latvia being ethnic Russian, some argue that Moscow's huge TV, radio and Internet presence is part of a hybrid battle for Baltic hearts and minds.

Putin justified his Crimea takeover by insisting that Moscow was coming to the defense of ethnic Russians in the territory, sparking concern here that Russia could deploy a similar policy.

According to Riga journalist Olga Dragileva, a hybrid media war aimed at sowing "dissatisfaction and illusions" among ethnic-Russian Latvians is in full swing in the eurozone member, which is still recovering from a crippling 2008-9 recession sparked by the global financial crisis.

It amounts to "the weaponization of social media," according to Janis Karklins, director of NATO's Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.

Based in Riga, the center works to analyze the official Russian political narrative and suggest responses.

Karklins warns the solution does not lie in creating counter-propaganda: "The old recipes are not effective any longer."

He proposes instead "to develop skills of media information literacy and critical thinking in our education system to make it harder for adversaries to disorient the population."

EU leaders are expected to agree at a summit this week to set up a special media unit to counter what the bloc sees as a skilful Russian propaganda campaign during the Ukraine crisis.

Hybrid Response

Many here believe neighboring Estonia had a foretaste of hybrid war in 2007 when the nation of 1.3 million suffered a blistering cyber attack against official state and bank websites.

The assault was widely blamed on Russian hackers, although the Kremlin denied involvement.

As in hybrid warfare, aggressors in cyberwarfare are often hard to identify and hence may not fear immediate and targeted retaliation — a key plank of conventional warfare.

Tallinn, home to NATO's cyber defence center, is also demanding Moscow release Eston Kohver, an Estonian police officer it claims was snatched at gunpoint by Russian operatives last September from inside Estonia.

Moscow insists Kohver was engaged in a clandestine operation in Russia and has charged him with espionage.

To counter similar murky scenarios, Vershbow says the alliance must develop hybrid responses able to "deploy the right forces to the right place at the right time."
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 19, 2015, 12:02:22
And on a different topic, the US has inadvertently shot itself in the foot twice: becomong dependent on foreign technology coming from a non allied state, and not having any "plan B" if the supply was cut off. Of course ULA could buy rocket motors directly from SpaceX which is vertically integrated and has no subcontractors in the usual sense. SpaceX plans to ramp up rocket engine production for their own expanding slate of launches (each Falcon uses 9 rockets on the first stage and a slightly modified version of the same motor for the second stage, the Falcon 9 Heavy uses 3 first stages ganged together for 27 motors), so making extra motors for ULA will not tax them too much (besides the obvious irony of supplying their own competitor):

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/air-space/space/2015/03/18/hasc-looking-to-alter-rd180-restriction/24977293/

Quote
HASC Looking to Alter RD-180 Restriction
by Aaron Mehta 10:27 p.m. EDT March 18, 2015

WASHINGTON — There is a growing sense on the Hill that language designed to limit the procurement of Russian engines for military space launches needs to be altered to avoid unexpected fallout.

Both Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Strategic Forces Subcommittee, and the panel's ranking member Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., indicated a belief that section 1608 of last year's National Defense Authorization Act needs to be re-opened and cleaned up to ensure the United Launch Alliance (ULA) can use its full lot of purchased RD-180 engines.

In a marathon double-hearing, Roger's committee questioned, first, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell and ULA head Tory Bruno, and then Pentagon representatives, about whether the language, which restricted the use of RD-180 engines on the Atlas V launch vehicle to those that were purchased before the February invasion of Ukraine, was being properly interpreted.

The situation Congress is dealing with is complicated, to put it lightly. The Hill passed 1608 with the intention of allowing ULA to use 14 engines it was already on contract for before the Russian invasion. However, Pentagon lawyers have apparently concluded that the language, as written, allows ULA to use only five of those 14.

At the same time, ULA has decided it will close down its Delta IV medium launch vehicle line by 2018, leaving it just with the Atlas V and the Delta Heavy, used only every few years for specialized missions. Without the extra RD-180 engines, ULA says, it will run out of the ability to compete for competitive launches after 2019.

That would leave SpaceX's Falcon 9 – which members of Congress, SpaceX executives and US Air Force officials alike continue to say will be certified by June – as the only military space launch option for the Air Force. Meanwhile, costs for the Delta IV Heavy would increase, potentially to as high as $1 billion per launch, Bruno said.

The reverse-monopoly is an idea ULA, which SpaceX been hammering on for being a monopoly during the last decade, has taken great pains to point out. So did Rogers, who tried hard to get Shotwell to use the "monopoly" word when describing that situation before eventually giving up and using it himself.

"You would have a monopoly, is where I'm going with this, and I just want you to acknowledge it," Rogers said after a back and forth with Shotwell. "You would have a monopoly on that work."

Rogers and Cooper alike made it clear they were sympathetic to the need for ULA to have access to those extra engines.

"We're going to try and statutorily clarify that it was our congressional intent that those 14 engines be used," Rogers said. "That will require both the House and Senate to concur on that but that's what we're going to try and clear up."

Speaking to Defense News, Cooper said "the Congress made a mistake" with its language.

"It was a drafting error and we need a technical correction to fix that," Cooper said. "I thought that should be made more explicit."

While the subcommittee's leadership might be in agreement, not everyone on the Hill is. Rogers noted that Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, seems to disagree with that interpretation.

"We're helping him understand the national security implications of that," Rogers added. "Hopefully it results in what is not a problematic remedy, but I've been in congress 13 years. Nothing is easy."

Asked about the RD-180 issue on March 16, Rep. Mac Thornberry, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said he wants to "understand much more clearly why they don't think that we can have an American engine." (interpolation: besides SpaceX, no current American company seems to have a suitable rocket motor in production or advanced development)

I would say the anxieties about being dependent on a Russian engine have only grown as we've seen what the aggression of Russia in a variety of spheres," he added. "So is this a question of dollars? Is it technology? Is it bureaucracy? What's the issue here? That's what we would need to understand better in order to answer that question."

In the meantime, the Air Force is trying to sort through its options. Bill LaPlante, the service's acquisition head, said the Pentagon lawyers' reading of the law is "quite restrictive."

If that's the intent of the Congress, we can do that," LaPlante said after the hearing. "The top legal experts in the department are reading it that way. If that wasn't their intent, [Congress] can change the language and we certainly will adhere to it."
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 26, 2015, 15:29:01
Putin signals Russia will stay the course. I suspect he is counting on the irresolution of Western leaders (where is the ghost of Winston Churchill?) and the internal friction of multi player alliances to reduce the pressure on Russia so long as Russia stays resolute. The Russian game plan is to wait out the sanctions and oil war (although Saudi Arabia probably has a few thoughts on that matter). The western inability to seemingly sustain attention or effort over the long term will cost us pretty badly, I suspect:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/russia-won-t-bend-down-in-standoff-with-west-putin-says-1.2298317

Quote
Russia won't 'bend down' in standoff with West, Putin says

Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, March 26, 2015 10:05AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 26, 2015 12:38PM EDT


MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin voiced confidence that Russia will come out as a winner in its standoff with the West if it firmly stays its ground.
 
Speaking Thursday before senior officials of the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the KGB agency, Putin said "the situation around our country will change for the better, but not because we will make concessions, bend down or trifle with someone."
 
"It will change for the better only if we become stronger," he said.
 
The Russian leader accused the West of using "attempts at political isolation, economic pressure, large-scale information war and instruments of special services" to weaken Russia.
 
He named the deployment of NATO's forces near Russian borders, the development of the alliance's U.S.-led missile defence program, and a U.S. program of developing high-precision long-range conventional weapons among the top threats.
 
"No one has succeeded in scaring our country or pressuring it and no one will," he added.
 
Russia's relations with the West have plunged to the lowest point since the Cold War over the Ukrainian crisis. The United States and the European Union have slapped painful economic sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
 
Putin, a KGB veteran, praised the agency, known under its Russian acronym FSB, for its efforts to catch foreign spies, saying it exposed 52 foreign intelligence officers and 290 of their agents last year alone.
 
He added that a top priority for the FSB now should be tracking Russian citizens who have left to fight alongside the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
 
"Later they could be used against us, against Russia and its neighbours," Putin said. "So it's important to take additional measures to cut international links and resource base of the terrorists, block avenues for their entry and exit from Russia."
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 30, 2015, 10:04:27
Rusian oligarchs bailing as the economy tanks. The economic stats in this article are looking pretty grim as well:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11482991/Russias-oligarchs-head-for-London-as-rouble-collapses.html

Quote
Russia’s oligarchs head for London as rouble collapses

Some of Russia's wealthiest individuals are looking to leave the country for London and Switzerland as the economy faces a sharp recession
By Peter Spence, Economics Correspondent

6:00AM BST 29 Mar 2015

Russia’s richest and most powerful are set to leave in droves, seeking to avoid a tax squeeze and the fallout from the country's economic crisis.

The majority of oligarchs interviewed for a new report on Russian have said that they are likely to leave the country in the next few years. Of the 30 Russian nationals included in a study by Campden Wealth, in partnership with UBS, more than half said that there were likely to move abroad, although not imminently.


Of those living in Russia, more than one in four said they had plans to leave within five years. Participants in the Campden study jointly control $2.5bn (£1.7bn) of personal wealth, and businesses with turnover of $6.5bn last year.


One Russian national interviewed by Campden said: “Russians, if they haven’t done so already, are considering relocation out of Russia. Clearly London is a key jurisdiction of choice.”


New rules introduced at the start of the year have meant that foreign business owned by Russians are now subject to Russian taxes, putting the squeeze on the wealthiest in a country where just 111 individuals control nearly a fifth of all household wealth.

Only businesses domiciled in countries with taxes 75pc lower than the Russian rate are affected. As a result, business interests in Cyprus are affected, while those in the UK are not.

Data showed a 69pc increase in Russian applications for UK investor visas in the first nine months of 2014, compared to 2013. Last November, the minimum investments for such visas was doubled to £2m.

Along with the tax changes, collapsing forecasts for economic growth and rocketing inflation rates have made Russia a less attractive place to do business. Andrew Porter, director of research at Campden Wealth, said: “Many of the wealth holders we spoke with expect that the economic conditions will, if not worsen, stay as bad.”

The Central Bank of Russia has estimated that GDP will fall by as much as 4pc this year, a product of falling oil prices and ongoing conflict in Ukraine. At the same time, inflation soared to 16.7pc in the year to March 10.

As fears of an even deeper slump have mounted, oligarchs have become more conservative in an attempt to preserve their wealth. The number who said they were pursuing preservation strategies has more than quadrupled from two years ago to 23pc, according to Campden.

A businessman from Nizhny Novgorod said: “Business owners are now more likely to adopt a more conservative approach to investing … because of the economic situation.”

Yet despite the gloomier landscape, some oligarchs surveyed by Campden Wealth believed that the downturn offered money making opportunities.

Peter O’Flynn, a co-author of the report, said: “Wealth holders seeking security invest in Europe, Russians deeply committed to gains invest in Russia.”



The rouble’s swift depreciation, losing more than 45pc of its value against the dollar since the start of 2014, may result in an M&A spree. On average, the oligarchs profiled in the report have segregated 48pc of their wealth from their business assets, and said they intended to segregate more of their personal wealth over the next 12 months.

Much of this personal wealth is held in foreign currencies, meaning that snapping up Russian firms is now easier. Russians are now looking to pick up bargains as the economic climate has reduced the valuations of potential targets. As such, most respondents said that they planned to invest more in Russia than abroad.

Russian entrepreneurs maintain a higher risk appetite than their western European peers. About half of participants’ private portfolios are made up of cash and real estate.

For some, sanctions over Ukraine have created business opportunities. As imports have been blocked, food prices have soared and presented investment opportunities in the agricultural sector.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on March 30, 2015, 13:00:55
How can long can they sustain this with the current economic sanctions and the effects of the sinking price of oil?

International Business Times (http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-working-make-military-invincible-says-rearmament-nuclear-forces-top-priority-1801300)

Quote
Russia Working To Make Military Invincible, Says Rearmament Of Nuclear Forces Top Priority
By  Kukil Bora @KukilBora on January 31 2015 1:42 AM EST

Russia’s Defense Ministry announced Friday that the government will work for the reinforcement of the country’s military, with more focus on the rearmament of nuclear deterrence forces, so that the Western powers cannot outclass Russia in military capabilities.

Citing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comment in December about furthering the development of the country’s armed forces, Defense Ministry Sergey Shoigu said that Russia is not interested in an arms race, but it is ready to ensure defense capacity in the current military and political situation. Tensions between Russia and the West have significantly increased over the past few months due to the conflict in the eastern Ukraine. Some observers even foresee the possibility of a military confrontation between Moscow and the West.

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 30, 2015, 13:16:48
How can long can they sustain this with the current economic sanctions and the effects of the sinking price of oil?

International Business Times (http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-working-make-military-invincible-says-rearmament-nuclear-forces-top-priority-1801300)


In my view they cannot even start it, much less sustain it ...

It's all bluff, to fool the rabidly anti-American lunatic fringe in Europe and to fool the Russian people, too.

The Russians are nostalgic for the "dream time" when they were a global superpower ~ a Potemkin village sort of superpower but one to be reckoned with, all the same.

Russia is a socio-cultural, political and economic shambles.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on March 30, 2015, 14:44:40
Evidence is already apparent; look at the Russian Military thread: http://army.ca/forums/index.php/topic,20333.msg1359599.html#msg1359599

The PAK-FA "5th Gen" fighter order has been reduced to 12; one squadrons(?) worth...
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Retired AF Guy on March 30, 2015, 21:06:10

In my view they cannot even start it, much less sustain it ...

It's all bluff, to fool the rabidly anti-American lunatic fringe in Europe and to fool the Russian people, too.

The Russians are nostalgic for the "dream time" when they were a global superpower ~ a Potemkin village sort of superpower but one to be reckoned with, all the same.

Russia is a socio-cultural, political and economic shambles.

Its just not the economy that Putin has to worry about, but also the population. A low birth rate(1) combined with both a high death rate(2) and low life expectancy(3) equals trouble!

(1) 11.87 per 1,000 people. Slightly ahead of Canada, but behind the U.S.
(2) 13.83 deaths per 1,000 people. Tenth highest in the world.
(3) 70.16 years (avg); female 76/male 64. Canada's avg is 81.


Source: CIA  World Factbook.  (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rs.html)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on March 30, 2015, 23:11:58
Its just not the economy that Putin has to worry about, but also the population. A low birth rate(1) combined with both a high death rate(2) and low life expectancy(3) equals trouble!

(1) 11.87 per 1,000 people. Slightly ahead of Canada, but behind the U.S.
(2) 13.83 deaths per 1,000 people. Tenth highest in the world.
(3) 70.16 years (avg); female 76/male 64. Canada's avg is 81.


Source: CIA  World Factbook.  (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rs.html)
The low birth rate is recovering from the low in the post USSR era. Compare it to the US (2000 to 2012):

(http://blogs-images.forbes.com/markadomanis/files/2014/04/USRusCBR.png)

The sad part about a population that doesn't age, that means you don't have to pay to take care of the elderly for as long.  Economically, retired people contribute nothing to society and only take.

And according to the Moscow Times, 2014 saw the natural population of Russia increase for the first time since the collapse of the USSR.  The difference?  24,013.  They aren't out of the woods yet, but they are doing something we are not: increasing by natural means.  And their life expectancy is actually on the rise. 

So, yes, the raw data shows them worse off than us: but they are getting better, and we are getting worse.

Edit to add link to Moscow Times article:

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russia-reverses-birth-decline-but-for-how-long/502325.html (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russia-reverses-birth-decline-but-for-how-long/502325.html)


Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Good2Golf on March 31, 2015, 10:17:27
Economically, retired people contribute nothing to society and only take.

Ah, I see you subscribe to the "old people's money spent on goods and services don't contibute to the economy, only young people's do" school of economics.  While retirees no longer pay into social support directly with CPP and OAS deductions, their spending their disposable income does contribute to the economy as does the amount of income tax they may pay, income depending, on their retirement income.

Nice "cherry picking" charts.  Are you saying that "natural" growth is a more important factor than considering the overall national population increase considering all factors, including immigration.  Why don't immigrants increasing the overall population of the U.S. count?

Regards
G2G
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on March 31, 2015, 11:23:02
Another question that might be asked is: how many of those Russians are Russians and how many are Tatars, Chechens, Kazakhs and other indigenous peoples?

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Retired AF Guy on March 31, 2015, 20:57:09
The low birth rate is recovering from the low in the post USSR era. Compare it to the US (2000 to 2012):

And according to the Moscow Times, 2014 saw the natural population of Russia increase for the first time since the collapse of the USSR.  The difference?  24,013.  They aren't out of the woods yet, but they are doing something we are not: increasing by natural means.  And their life expectancy is actually on the rise. 

Not according to the CIA Factbook; the Russian population is actually declining at a rate of -0.03%. Canada's rate is +0.76.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Retired AF Guy on March 31, 2015, 20:59:55
Another question that might be asked is: how many of those Russians are Russians and how many are Tatars, Chechens, Kazakhs and other indigenous peoples? 

Quote
Ethnic groups:
   
Russian 77.7%, Tatar 3.7%, Ukrainian 1.4%, Bashkir 1.1%, Chuvash 1%, Chechen 1%, other 10.2%, unspecified 3.9%. note: more than 190 ethnic groups are represents in Russia's 2010 census (2010 est.)

CIA Factbook.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on April 01, 2015, 11:08:20
Russian bases proliferating outside of Russia proper. Interesting to look at where all these things are on the map:

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20150326.aspx

Quote
Information Warfare: The Russian Exception

March 26, 2015:  Russian media, using government data, recently understated the number of military bases that Russia operates outside its borders; apparently forgetting about the several bases Russia has in the Caucasus and elsewhere. This came about when the Russian president, at the high-profile annual press conference was asked about the possibility of a "new Cold War" and Russia's aggressive moves around its Western borders. The reply insisted that it was in fact the West who was being aggressive. This was emphasized by pointing out that there are a lot more American military bases abroad than Russian ones, and certainly a lot more American military personnel deployed close to Russia's borders than the other way around. But this response neglected to mention several other bases Russia has abroad:

-- In Armenia, Russia's 102nd Military Base in Gyumri hosts about 5,000 Russian soldiers, both land and air forces. In 2010 Armenia and Russia signed an agreement extending the base's lease until 2044. In recent years Russia has made moves to upgrade its presence at the base and it may host the Caucasus portion of the nascent Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) air forces.

-- In Abkhazia, Russia's 7th Military Base hosts at the Bombora Air Field in Gudauta about 3,500 soldiers and a small number of aircraft. Russia has reportedly spent $465 million since recognizing Abkhazia as an independent country in 2008 to upgrade its military facilities there. In 2011, Russia and Abkhazia signed an agreement permitting the base to stay until 2060.

-- In South Ossetia, the 4th Military Base hosts about 3,800 soldiers in Tskhinvali, Java, and Kanchaveti. There is also a military airport in Kurta. That base also has the right to stay until 2060.

-- In Transnistria, Russia keeps about 1,500 troops in the Moldovan breakaway republic, based in the de facto capitol Tiraspol as well as in the Bender Fortress.

And that doesn't include the naval base at Tartus, Syria (although that one is temporarily evacuated due to the Syrian Civil War) or the air base planned in Babruysk, Belarus for 2016. And in February 2016, Russia was planning to establish several new military bases abroad, including "Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles, Singapore and several other countries," though no details of those plans have emerged.

It might be beneficial for American and European leaders to think about an actual reengagement approach with Russia and look at the rationale for the actions of their adversary. As every nation state operates in within their own self-interests, Russia is no exception to this. The security concerns stated by Russia due to possible NATO expansion into the former Soviet Union are legitimate to Russia. But the U.S. and Europe don’t accept this as this is done at the invitation of Russian neighbors that fear a return of the traditional Russian aggression against its neighbors. If this is ultimately responsible for the creation of a new Cold War it is merely a recycling of what caused the first Cold War. Russia does not accept the fact that their aggression is never acceptable to anyone. – Ryan Schinault
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on April 01, 2015, 14:37:20
Russian bases proliferating outside of Russia proper. Interesting to look at where all these things are on the map:

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20150326.aspx
That's bunk.  Yes, those are "outside of Russia proper", but pale in comparison to US military bases and presence around the globe:

Link to PDF (http://www.acq.osd.mil/ie/download/bsr/BSR2012Baseline.pdf)


(As for Belarus, that's simply "White Russia" as it used to be called.  It's practically part of Russia proper)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on April 01, 2015, 16:26:06
Hardly "bunk"; despite their very strained economic circumstances, these are new facilities, or ones being reactivated since the dissolution of the USSR. The point is not the number of bases, but the fact the Russians are expanding their military footprint abroad.

And of course they are also revitalizing their military footprint in Russia, including bases in the far north, across from us...
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: tomahawk6 on April 03, 2015, 11:15:44
Russian ships have a foothold in the former Norwegian Naval Base of Olavsvern.The government sold the base to a private company for $5m.

http://news.yahoo.com/russian-ships-old-arctic-nato-set-alarms-bells-050008186.html

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: milnews.ca on April 05, 2015, 12:39:23
Santa's got some Russian company (original in Russian (http://tvzvezda.ru/news/forces/content/201504051138-9519.htm) - Google English (https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ru&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Ftvzvezda.ru%2Fnews%2Fforces%2Fcontent%2F201504051138-9519.htm&edit-text=)) ....
Quote
Blue berets 76th Air Assault Division from Pskov finish preparation for priledneniyu on drifting ice of the North Pole, where, according to the scenario, they will have to save the polar scientific station. Together with the Russian paratroopers will perform their task Belarusian colleagues. During kilometer forced march Russian military train them to use snowmobiles and dog sleds to transport victims. Parachute blue berets will be of military transport IL-76. Have been trained and air troop complex.

As observers at the exercises will be representatives of the armies of other countries of the CSTO.

Exercises will be held as part of a rapid response unit.

During the exercises paratroopers dressed in a special form, designed to meet the requirements of Russian polar explorers - layered and wicking, comfortable and warm - especially for action under abnormal temperatures.
(http://tvzvezda.ru/news/vstrane_i_mire/content/201504051525-trkl.htm/2.jpg)
At the North Pole unfurled flags of 85 subjects of the Russian Federation. Flags were neatly stacked on the polar snow over an area of ​​1.5 thousand sq. Meters.  This event was held in honor of the 70th anniversary of the victory in World War II. The ceremony was TV presenter Nikolai Drozdov.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Boxtop22 on April 05, 2015, 15:48:07
Is not the West engaging in a type of hybrid warfare with Russia on the economic front?  The country sliding towards a full-on recession may significantly impact Russia's ability to continue imposing its will on the region.  Did I misread my von Clausewitz?

Regards
G2G

I think the answer isn't that black and white. I am not too sure I would resort to Clausewitz, as I believe looking at the conflict / confrontation from such a lens would be anachronistic. The United States (read US HUMNIT agencies) understood (or thought they had) that if they play the economic warfare game on Putin's entourage, then they may be able to destabilize him. That wasn't really a bad idea, but I think it just wasn't properly thought through.

It is a very well known fact that Russia's political sphere is a number of different power-clusters. The one common denominator to most of the people who constitute these clusters is that they're either rich, very rich, and/or former KGB / GRU / FSB people. They mostly have a very comprehensive security/intelligence background, they are rather informed, paranoid, and influential (You can see the problem here: a lot of powerful influential people will often head in opposite directions, preventing the formation of any real movement).

In this context, I think the Sanctions and/or Economic warfare strategy failed. In war and/or security studies there is a notion of Market Deterrence which affirms that if a State acts very aggressively and is very belligerent, the global market will naturally act negatively toward that country's economy. On the other hand, Artificial Market Deterrence is a man-made version of this, which comprises economic and industrial sanctions, as well as the full spectrum of economic warfare. The issue with Artificial Market Deterrence is that it is not a natural process and therefore. Because of this, it is hard to sustain over a long period of time, and it often or leads to unexpected consequences. In the case of Russia, Artificial Market Deterrence generated three major counter effects:
1) The oligarchs we wanted to target to destabilize Putin, have now lost most of what they had to lose abroad (frozen assets, seized yachts, real estates, aircraft, bank accounts, funds, etc). This has rendered them either bitter against Western Sanctions, or powerless against Russia's powerful elite. (I would add that a lot of people were indirectly impacted by the overall sanctions)
2) With many of the oligarchs politically neutralized, Putin, Patrushev (who I think is Russia's most-powerful at the moment) and their entourage have more leverage in Russia.
3) The sanctions have forced Russia to open her economy and it is giving her the opportunity to finally complete the economic reform which no-one could complete since Andropov died (many believe that Andropov's death is what prevented Gorbatchov from successful reforms because he understood the Soviet economy like very no one else.)

I unfortunately believe that our mistake is that we're effectively giving Russia an opportunity to reform her economy. This may be good for global stability and for democracy in the long-run, but in a time of conflict it is offering Putin's government the opportunity to achieve something the previous oligarchs had failed to do under Yeltsin. It's a golden opportunity for Russia to increase the role of services, R&D, Weaponry and Techs industries in her domestic economy. It is important to note that China is also a military technology / energy partner (a partner more than an ally though). Along with China are many upcoming regional powers such as Algeria (who is now leading Africa in defence spending) , Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Brazil, and many other significant economic and geopolitical powers. A lesser mistake is that we've underestimated the good old Russian recipe for popular support: create an enemy, create a war, solidify the leader, and blame America (and, or, the West) for the economic situation and add a bit of "the westerners are decadent gay people who fudge children" to reach out to the most hardcore faithfuls in Russia. I have personally seen very smart, young Russians, who left Russia, who hate Putin, but who are now supporting him because in their mind (and hearts? how cute) Russia is their country, and the bad Putin is not bad enough for them to "betray" their motherland.

It does seem like our economic warfare model is failing, the only thing with have left is a military or diplomacy based approach. We must acknowledge that Putin already adopted a neorealist approach. He mobilized his forces, he increased their state of readiness, he increased domestic troop movements (I added a link), he increased logistical flows toward the front and started cutting off energy supplies from time to time. The Russians are also sending aircraft and vessels everywhere, not to test our defences, but to force leaders to react publicly (P.R. Warfare). For now he has succesfully forced the Europeans to rethink their Common Security and Defence Policy (which went dormant for years), he forced the Swedish to reconsider joining NATO, he forced the Norwegians to go back to a Cold-War approach and he is forcing us to rethink our defence capabilities in the Arctic.

My recommendation would be: either we take comprehensive defensive and military actions to show Russia that if they're willing to cross the line, we will cross it with them and without hesitation (which I do not think is their intention) or we engage in open and clear diplomacy to find out what the hell do they want, because the longer we keep the "conflict" alive, the more we increase the odds of other countries attempting to challenge the global order for territorial or influence gain.

This is a purely personal analysis, not based on any non open-source information.

A very interesting game-theory text on Russia and the West in Ukraine: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/03/game-theory-ukraine
On troop movements (not sure how reliable): http://cdn.theeventchronicle.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/troop-movements.jpg

[I edited the text for grammar / spelling / clarity]
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Good2Golf on April 05, 2015, 18:09:28
I'm intrigued as to your assessment element 1), above.  Who then are the "elite" you speak of if they are, or were not Putin's oligarchic comrades?  So you assess that the oligarchs no longer retain ultimate influential/powerf/control of their assets inside of Russia as well -- that international sanctions have rendered them helpless to control any of their domestic assets?  How have these other elite Russians of whom you speak taken control of the country's assets?
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Boxtop22 on April 05, 2015, 19:16:08
I'm intrigued as to your assessment element 1), above.  Who then are the "elite" you speak of if they are, or were not Putin's oligarchic comrades?  So you assess that the oligarchs no longer retain ultimate influential/powerf/control of their assets inside of Russia as well -- that international sanctions have rendered them helpless to control any of their domestic assets?  How have these other elite Russians of whom you speak taken control of the country's assets?

I think there has been a three phase evolution of Russia's elite since 1992. The first phase first appeared under the rule of Yeltsin's Elite, nicknammed "the family" (It included Tatyana Yumasheva - Eltsin's daughter - Boris Berezovsky, Anatoly Chubais Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, and many more, including the late Nemtsov.) This first-phase elite benefited from the "privatization of the economy" which Chubais was overseeing at the time. They became an hybrid of media tycoon, business owners and political actors. What Putin probably noticed very early on is that all these individuals surrounding Yeltsin had a lot of influence over him, if anything they were virtually ruling Russia. Berezovsky had managed to have FSB/GRU agents to represent about 20% of Aeroflot's workforce. Aeroflot at the time was basically funding a big chunk of Russia's foreign operations. This very powerful group fought hard to get Putin elected thinking he would be grateful and offer them laissez-passer or, at least, allow them to remain in that sphere of influence. They basically wanted to make Putin a new kind-of Yeltsin, a leader in appearance, who would not really have any impact domestically. It seems like Putin did not fall for that, he either ordered the expulsion or the neutralization of those he deemed to be too powerful. The only one to whom he was loyal was Yeltsin, he honoured his promise to shield him and his real-family from legal troubles.

That constituted the beginning of the second phase. Putin attempted to create the Phase II elite. An elite based on your closeness to Putin. If you were his ally, and he trusted you, you would remain around. A new system of power emerged with people attempting to show Putin how loyal they were. One example could be the theory that Anna Politkovskaya was probably killed by people attempting to make him a gift (it was his birthday) in order to gain his trust. This phase of power saw anybody who constituted a real threat to Putin (unlike Politkovskaya, which is why I don't think he actually ordered her killed) being eliminated. Alexander Litvinenko was a good example. On the other hand, anyone who truly wanted to gain his support, would make consequential acts to prove their loyalty. Abramovich did so by sinking Berezovsky and his allies in a corruption / fraud affair that forced Berezovsky out of the country.

I think right now, we are in a third-phase. A lot of people who were relegated out of the sphere of influence during the second-phase, are slowly trying to come back. But with the War in Ukraine and the military tensions, no one wants to truly challenge Putin publicly, it would be too easy to label them as under "foreign influence" and "antipatriotic". Unlike what we hear, I think public image is kind of essential in the "russian-style" democracy. I also believe that the fact that most of them have seen their assets seized or frozen has greatly limited their ability to operate domestically, effectively solidifying Putin's power. This is for the elites.

As for how they took control of the country's assets? False trials (Khudorkosvky), Corruption Affairs, Elimination, Seizures and Nationalization seem to be a recurring feature of Putin's modus operandi. I would not say that the oligarchs no longer retain ultimate influence / power / control over Russia. I think they still have a big margin of manoeuver but that they are too fragmented to act, as long as the war persists, it will be difficult to act against Putin. Eventually, in a year or two, there may be an opportunity (over 200,000 Muscovites and Peterburzhec will protest during the next campaign if Putin seeks reelection, I would bet a lot on that). That may give those wealthy isolated oligarchs the opportunity to shake the existing establishment. A lot of oligarchs still have money, individually, and could be a very strong power collectively, but Putin's strategy seem to have successfully prevented them from unifying in any way, that would be my guess.

It's just an opinion, obviously. I do base myself on facts, published stories, books, articles, and my studies and research on Russia. Most facts can probably be tracked back to a source, but the logic is a personal one, I am open to criticism.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on April 08, 2015, 11:36:55
Long article on the situation in Russia. Lots of interesting details on how Russia is building relations with other nations to evade sanctions (and often the other nation is one like Iran which is also seeking to evade international sanctions, or questionalble deals with lots of strings attached).

How this plays out in the long run is hard to predict, but Russia's options are becoming more limited, and much of the damage is self inflicted:

http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/russia/articles/20150402.aspx

Quote
Russia: Counting The Losses
     
April 2, 2015: Russian economists see GDP shrinking another four percent this year and less than one percent in 2016 followed by growth. What the Russian economists will not openly discuss is that this forecast implies that something will be done about the corruption and lawlessness that makes it difficult for businesses to be created and grow. The government has some very good economic advisors but so far there has been little action on dealing with the corruption, which the economists (and most Russians) agree is the major obstacle to growth and prosperity.

The growing Russian use of armed (and diplomatic) aggression against its neighbors is hurting the Russian economy in unexpected ways. For example long time customers for Russian military equipment (weapons, spare parts and services) are becoming more reluctant to buy Russian. The reason is simple, Russia is now seen as unpredictable and unreliable when it comes to supplying support and spare parts for their weapons and equipment. This became obvious when Russia was hit with economic sanctions in 2014 for its aggression against Ukraine. Russia then threatened to halt shipments and support for weapons to any country that supported the sanctions. Soon Russia got the message and tried to back down, but it was too late. The message was sent and the damage was done.

Meanwhile the government continues to succeed at shifting the blame for the poor economy to the West and especially NATO. Most Russians believe that this is all part of a NATO plot against Russia and that their own government is merely responding to this aggression. President Putin still has approval ratings of over 80 percent. The sanctions are directed at the key people supporting Putin and the aggression in Ukraine but most of these targets are very rich and the only discomfort they endure is a fall in the value of their assets. For most Russians the deprivations are more tangible with rising prices, shortages and unemployment. For thousands of parents there is the son getting killed or wounded in the Ukraine where, officially, there are no Russian soldiers.

Ukraine has asked NATO for electronic warfare support and there has been no publicity about the response. That could mean that some NATO nations came through, quietly, mainly for the opportunity to get a better understanding of the latest Russian electronic warfare gear when used under combat conditions. That is important because Russia exports a lot of this equipment. The Russians don’t mind making their electronic warfare tech more vulnerable to theft because Russian manufacturers need the money to stay in business. NATO would simply like to know more about the latest Russian gear, just in case.

A Russian motorized infantry brigade in Western Siberia recently received fifteen modernized T-72B3 tanks. This is a modernized version of T-72 with an improved fire control system and next-generation communications equipment. The delivery was of the Russian effort to modernize its armed forces. Russia has over 5,000 T-72 tanks in use (2,000 in active service and 3,000 in reserve) and most of them are Cold War (pre-1991) vintage and seriously out-of-date compared to American, European and Chinese tanks. Modernizing these Cold War era tanks has been underway for a decade but is proceeding very slowly because of money shortages.

As much as Russia tries to hide the presence of Russian troops in the eastern Ukraine (Donbas) those troops have become more and more visible to the general public. The rebel controlled areas of Donbas are not heavily policed and many of the civilians there don’t want to be ruled by Russia but keep their mouths shut and their cell phone cameras active. With the addition of commercial satellite photos and military grade satellite photos released by the United States it has been possible to identify the extent of the Russian effort. Increasingly Russian soldiers are going public on the Internet and even in some Russian media about the presence and importance (for rebel success in Donbas) of Russian troops in Ukraine. From all this it appears that Russia has brought in over 40,000 combat and support troops from over a hundred different units. These troops are usually brought in for a few months, or as many as six months, then sent back to their home base and replaced by another unit. This is causing problems in Russia because many of the troops involved are conscripts and when these are killed the official story is that they died from something other than combat. The bodies are shipped home in sealed caskets which are often, in violation of government instructions, unsealed. When that happens the parents discover that their son died in combat and that gets around via the Internet and some of the more daring mass media. Most Russian mass media is government controlled, but the Internet dilutes the news monopoly that control of mass media used to confer. The situation has gotten worse as Russia has begun using special units of Interior Ministry Police to work behind units in combat and arrest any troops, usually conscripts, who try to run away. This harkens back to the World War II practice of having groups of KGB men behind the front line with orders to shoot on sight any troops they saw moving away from the fighting.

Since Russia began invading and trying to annex parts of Ukraine in 2014 there has been a substantial shift in population. Since early 2014 nearly two million people have left Russia. More than half these were Westerners (including many from East European countries) working in Russia, providing skills that Russia did not have. The rest were Russians, most of them highly educated and with similar skills to the departing Westerners. What all these migrants had in common was a desire to get away from an increasingly authoritarian, intolerant and economically disastrous Russian government. About half the departing Westerners and skilled Russians were replaced by more (less educated and skilled) migrants from the east (Central Asia, North Korea, China and the Caucasus). There would be more migrants from the east but the lower oil prices has caused an economic crises and fewer jobs, especially fewer jobs for the less educated. Since the current Russian government seems determined to continue its aggressive and anti-Western policies, the exodus of skilled Russians will continue. During the Soviet period such migration was forbidden and a growing number of Russians fear those Soviet era travel restrictions will return, because without such restrictions Russia will lose a critical number of skilled personnel needed to operate a modern economy. The current government seems unconcerned about this and has an attitude of “good riddance”. Some members of the government do realize the implications of these migration patterns but know better than to go public with their misgivings. If this trend is not reversed, Russia will continue to have a smaller, and less Russian and less educated population. If the current Russian leadership have their way the size of Russia and population will grow via conquest. As in the past, many of the neighbors are willing to resist.

One of the less publicized casualties of the current Russian aggression is the nuclear disarmament efforts that have been underway since the 1980s. Russia is no longer interested in nuclear disarmament but rather in further developing nuclear weapons. Russia sees its nukes as its most reliable and intimidating weapon.

Ukraine is also coping with economic problems caused by Russia. The major one is natural gas supplies. In the last year Ukraine has increased natural gas imports from the west by 138 percent and cut Russian imports by 44 percent. Even with that and reduced use of natural gas, Russia still accounts for over 70 percent of natural gas used in Ukraine.

April 1, 2015: In Yemen the Russian consulate was looted by Shia rebels who have entered some parts of the port city of Aden. Arab bombing attacks on the Shia rebels in Aden blew out most of the windows in the Russian consulate. Meanwhile a Russian transport sent to the capital (Sanaa) to evacuate embassy staff was turned away because of the Arab air attacks. The Russian transport landed in Egypt and plans to try again in a day or so.

March 31, 2015:  Russia and Turkey are negotiating terms of Turkey joining a barter arrangement with Russia. To get around the banking sanctions Russia has, in effect established a barter system with China, North Korea and Iran. China has become a major trading partner of Russia. As a result Chinese businesses with Russian dealings have been advised by their government to use the rubles they are paid for goods to buy Russian assets, which are finding far fewer other foreign buyers because of the Russian economic crises. This Chinese aid comes with strings, mainly in terms of Russia agreeing to sell more military tech (design and manufacturing methods) to China. Turkey is also looking for some payback although it is unclear so far what that is.
March 30, 2015: A Russian newspaper published an interview with Syrian president Assad thanking Russia for continuing to deliver weapons. Assad said these were orders from before the 2011 revolution and after (when a UN arms embargo went into effect). Russia did not respond to international media queries but inside the country it’s a different story. Since 2011 the Russian government openly boasted (at least inside Russia) of how it was backing the Syrian government against a popular uprising and how this had been successful. Russian arms shipments (via air and sea) increased after 2011 and has included armored vehicles and UAVs. Syria accounted for seven percent of Russian arms exports in 2011, and Russia wants to show that they always deliver. Russia was also building a naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus in 2011 but the several hundred Russians who there working on the project were soon withdrawn from Syria and the Tartus project suspended until the war is over. 

March 29, 2015: Russia agreed to let Chinese banks with questionable finances (even by Chinese standards) to operate in Russia. This is because Russia needs access to investment capital as the sanctions have deprived Russia of this. Russian economists caution against this sort of involvement with China but are ignored because the struggle with the West is considered a higher priority than the future health of the Russian economy.

March 25, 2015: The U.S. delivered the first ten of 230 armored hummers. The Americans are also providing UAVs, radars and other electronics.

March 23, 2015: The Russian Finance Ministry has gone public with its warning about how much the government is depending on the $85 billion Reserve Fund to cover budget deficits. In 2015 the government is spending $50 billion of the reserve fund to cover deficit spending. When the Reserve Fund is gone the government risks ruinous hyper-inflation by simply printing more money. At this point the government is betting it will win its war of wills with the West by 2016. Meanwhile a fifth of the 800 Russian banks are in financial trouble because of the sanctions and the plunging price of oil. Most economists believe Russia needs oil selling at $100 a barrel to avoid an extended economic recession. Currently oil it at less than $50 a barrel and the Arab Gulf oil states are not inclined to help Russia out by cutting production and forcing oil prices back up. This is because Russia is increasingly very open in its alliance with Iran, which the oil price war is mainly aimed at. Meanwhile the Finance Ministry worries that the sanctions are doing permanent (or at least long term) damage to the Russian economy. Europeans no longer want to buy Russian natural gas, or much else Russian because now West Europe sees Russia more of a threat than a reliable and profitable trading partner.

March 21, 2015: in the south (Dagestan) police clashed with Islamic terrorists and killed seven of them.

Russia threatened Denmark with nuclear attack if Denmark decides to participate in the construction of an American anti-missile system to protect Europe from such attacks out of Iran and, apparently, now Russia as well.

March 20, 2015: Ukrainian troops near Mariupol clashed with pro-Russian rebels and killed three and wounded six. The rebels appear to be bringing in more troops and weapons forward in preparation for another effort to take Mariupol. This is in violation of the truce and is nothing new as far as the Russians and rebels are concerned.

March 19, 2015: EU (European Union) leaders agreed that their sanctions on Russia would remain in force until Russia made peace with Ukraine.

The U.S. has agreed to send 290 American paratroopers from a brigade based in Italy, to Ukraine and being training 750 Ukrainian troops in April.

March 16, 2015: Russia began nationwide military training exercises involving 38,000 troops, 3,360 vehicles, 41 surface warships, 15 submarines and 110 warplanes.  This is expensive but the government is willing to pay what it costs to increase the combat capabilities of its troops.

The U.S. made clear that the economic sanctions against Russia will go on as long as Russia continues meddling in Ukrainian affairs. The EU nations have already said the same thing.

March 15, 2015: Ukrainian leaders are going public with their misgivings about the current ceasefire with Russian and Ukrainian rebel forces in the east (Donbas). The rebels continue to fire on Ukrainian troops and sometimes even try to advance, often retreating only after taking casualties. The rebels also block European ceasefire monitors. Russia denies any problems exist except those caused by Ukrainians and NATO agents.

March 14, 2015: Iraqi media has been playing up the aid Iran is providing to defeat ISIL. This makes Iraqis more eager to do business with Iran. That is important for Iran because of a new agreement between Iran and Russia signed today. The two countries worked out details and agreed to form a joint supervisory board for a joint bank which would enable Iran to evade sanctions, at least with Russia, by gaining access to the Russian banking system. While this subterfuge could expose Russia to more international banking sanctions, Russia apparently sees that coming anyway and is seeking to build a separate international banking system for outcast nations. Iraq has become an unofficial member of this new banking system with a growing number of Iranian firms establishing themselves in Iraq. Afghanistan is also a growing trade partner but because Afghanistan relies so much on Western aid to stay solvent, Iran cannot get as involved in manipulating the Afghan economy to help Iran beat the sanctions. If China can be persuaded to join this arrangement it will be a formidable competitor for the existing international banking system.

March 10, 2015: The U.S. accuses Russia of continuing to send weapons to Donbas rebels in violation of the recent ceasefire.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on April 11, 2015, 13:25:51
A former chess grand champion and Russian political opposition activist weighs in; Kasparov should not be dismissed simply because he spent most of his life playing chess.  Take note that Kasparov was close to recently assassinated opposition politician Boris Nemtsov:

CBC (https://ca.news.yahoo.com/kasparov-vladimir-putins-russia-virus-010000790.html)

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Kasparov: Vladimir Putin's Russia a virus that must be contained
CBC – 15 hours ago

Chess champion Garry Kasparov outplayed nearly everyone in the world for 22 years. Today the Russian grandmaster is taking on his most formidable opponent, President Vladimir Putin.

"Putin's Russia is a virus. You don't engage the virus, you have to contain it," he told me.

Kasparov is one of four debaters Friday night in Toronto questioning the West's response to Russia: 'engage or isolate?'

He's been  fiercely critical of the west's "failure" to effectively take on Putin. He likens the Russian leader's political tactics and power to Adolf Hitler's in the years leading up to the Second World War.

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Boxtop22 on April 16, 2015, 13:37:06
Very valid point for Kasparov, but I think he and Navalny are not ready yet. They lack grit, experience, popular support and funds.
I think by jailed Navalny's brother, Putin may actually be reinforcing him, but Kasparov, whom I respect, has been very vocal, that's for sure. He's made very interesting points, but I don't recall him being able to successfully rally people behind him, he's often be a "supporting actor" to other "big shots" such as Nemtsov or Navalny.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on April 20, 2015, 10:25:57
A long article in the National Interest. This could equally go in Grand Strategy for a Divided America, and it gives a very good overview of how things are interlinked in ways that are not immediately apparent. It also points out the very different perceptions that various players like Russia, China and the United States have on the same issues:

http://nationalinterest.org/print/feature/russia-america-stumbling-war-12662

Part 1
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Russia and America: Stumbling to War
Graham Allison Dimitri K. Simes
May-June 2015 [5]

AFTER THE Soviet Union collapsed, Richard Nixon observed that the United States had won the Cold War, but had not yet won the peace. Since then, three American presidents—representing both political parties—have not yet accomplished that task. On the contrary, peace seems increasingly out of reach as threats to U.S. security and prosperity multiply both at the systemic level, where dissatisfied major powers are increasingly challenging the international order, and at the state and substate level, where dissatisfied ethnic, tribal, religious and other groups are destabilizing key countries and even entire regions.
 
Most dangerous are disagreements over the international system and the prerogatives of major powers in their immediate neighborhoods—disputes of the sort that have historically produced the greatest conflicts. And these are at the core of U.S. and Western tensions with Russia and, even more ominously, with China. At present, the most urgent challenge is the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. There, one can hear eerie echoes of the events a century ago that produced the catastrophe known as World War I. For the moment, the ambiguous, narrow and inconsistently interpreted Minsk II agreement is holding, and we can hope that it will lead to further agreements that prevent the return of a hot war. But the war that has already occurred and may continue reflected deep contradictions that America cannot resolve if it does not address them honestly and directly.
 
In the United States and Europe, many believe that the best way to prevent Russia’s resumption of its historic imperial mission is to assure the independence of Ukraine. They insist that the West must do whatever is required to stop the Kremlin from establishing direct or indirect control over that country. Otherwise, they foresee Russia reassembling the former Soviet empire and threatening all of Europe. Conversely, in Russia, many claim that while Russia is willing to recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (with the exception of Crimea), Moscow will demand no less than any other great power would on its border. Security on its western frontier requires a special relationship with Ukraine and a degree of deference expected in major powers’ spheres of influence. More specifically, Russia’s establishment sentiment holds that the country can never be secure if Ukraine joins NATO or becomes a part of a hostile Euro-Atlantic community. From their perspective, this makes Ukraine’s nonadversarial status a nonnegotiable demand for any Russia powerful enough to defend its national-security interests.
 
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia was on its knees, dependent on Western assistance and consumed by its own internal affairs. In that context, it was not surprising that Western leaders became accustomed to ignoring Russian perspectives. But since Vladimir Putin took over in 1999, he has led a recovery of Russia’s sense of itself as a great power. Fueled by rising oil production and prices that brought a doubling of Russia’s GDP during his fifteen-year reign, Russians increasingly bridled at such treatment.
 
Americans would do well to recall the sequence of events that led to Japan’s attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the Second World War. In 1941, the United States imposed a near-total embargo on oil shipments to Japan to punish its aggression on the Asian mainland. Unfortunately, Washington drastically underestimated how Japan would respond. As one of the post–World War II “wise men,” Secretary of State Dean Acheson, observed afterward, the American government’s
 

misreading was not of what the Japanese government proposed to do in Asia, not of the hostility our embargo would excite, but of the incredibly high risks General Tojo would assume to accomplish his ends. No one in Washington realized that he and his regime regarded the conquest of Asia not as the accomplishment of an ambition but as the survival of a regime. It was a life-and-death matter to them.
 
Just days before Pearl Harbor, Japanese special envoy Saburo Kurusu told Washington that “the Japanese people believe that economic measures are a much more effective weapon of war than military measures; that . . . they are being placed under severe pressure by the United States to yield to the American position; and that it is preferable to fight rather than to yield to pressure.” Despite this warning, the Japanese response to U.S. economic warfare caught the United States off guard, killing nearly 2,500 people and sinking much of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
 
Reviewing the recent record of American administrations’ forecasts about the consequences of major foreign-policy choices should serve as a bright warning light. The Clinton administration misread an extended and bloody civil war in Yugoslavia before imposing its own shaky partition and angering Russia and China in the process. When George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq and replace Saddam Hussein’s regime with a democratically elected one, he believed that this would, as he said, “serve as a powerful example of liberty and freedom in a part of the world that is desperate for liberty and freedom.” He and his team held firmly to this conviction, despite numerous warnings that war would fragment the country along tribal and religious lines, that any elected government in Baghdad would be Shia-dominated and that Iran would be the principal beneficiary from a weakened Iraq. Next, the Obama administration joined Britain and France in a major air campaign in Libya to remove Muammar el-Qaddafi. The consequent chaos contributed to the killings of a U.S. ambassador and other American diplomats and to the creation of a haven for Islamic extremists more threatening than Qaddafi’s Libya to its neighbors and to America. In Syria, at the outset of the civil war, the Obama administration demanded the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, even though he never posed a direct threat to America. Neither the Obama administration nor members of Congress took seriously predictions that Islamic extremists would dominate the Syrian opposition rather than more moderate forces—and that Assad would not be easy to displace.
 
COULD A U.S. response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine provoke a confrontation that leads to a U.S.-Russian war? Such a possibility seems almost inconceivable. But when judging something to be “inconceivable,” we should always remind ourselves that this is a statement not about what is possible in the world, but about what we can imagine. As Iraq, Libya and Syria demonstrate, political leaders often have difficulties envisioning events they find uncomfortable, disturbing or inconvenient.
 
Prevailing views of the current confrontation with Russia over Ukraine fit this pattern. Since removing Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Muammar el-Qaddafi from power had limited direct impact on most Americans, it is perhaps not surprising that most Washington policy makers and analysts assume that challenging Russia over Ukraine and seeking to isolate Moscow internationally and cripple it economically will not come at a significant cost, much less pose real dangers to America. After all, the most common refrain in Washington when the topic of Russia comes up is that “Russia doesn’t matter anymore.” No one in the capital enjoys attempting to humiliate Putin more than President Barack Obama, who repeatedly includes Russia in his list of current scourges alongside the Islamic State and Ebola. And there can be no question that as a petrostate, Russia is vulnerable economically and has very few, if any, genuine allies. Moreover, many among its business and intellectual elites are as enthusiastic as the Washington Post editorial page to see Putin leave office. Ukrainians with the same view of former Ukrainian president Viktor F. Yanukovych successfully ousted him with limited Western help, so, it is argued, perhaps Putin is vulnerable, too.
 
Nevertheless, Russia is very different from the other countries where the United States has supported regime change. First and most important, it has a nuclear arsenal capable of literally erasing the United States from the map. While many Americans have persuaded themselves that nuclear weapons are no longer relevant in international politics, officials and generals in Moscow feel differently. Second, regardless of how Americans view their country, Russians see it as a great power. Great powers are rarely content to serve simply as objects of other states’ policies. Where they have the power to do so, they take their destiny into their own hands, for good or ill.
 
 
 
WHILE MOST policy makers and commentators dismiss the possibility of a U.S.-Russian war, we are more concerned about the drift of events than at any point since the end of the Cold War. We say this having followed Soviet and Russian affairs throughout the Cold War and in the years since the Soviet Union’s implosion in 1991. And we say it after one of us recently spent a week in Moscow talking candidly with individuals in and around the Putin government, including with many influential Russian officials, and the other in China listening to views from Beijing. We base our assessment on these conversations as well as other public and private sources.
 
There are three key factors in considering how today’s conflict might escalate to war: Russia’s decision making, Russia’s politics and U.S.-Russian dynamics.
 
With respect to Russia’s decision making, Putin is recognized both inside and outside the country as the unilateral decider. All available evidence suggests that he relies on a very narrow circle of advisers, none of whom is prepared to challenge his assumptions. This process is unlikely to help Putin make informed decisions that fully take account of the real costs and benefits.
 
Moreover, Russia’s political environment, at both the elite and public levels, encourages Putin to escalate demands rather than make concessions. At the elite level, Russia’s establishment falls into two camps: a pragmatic camp, which is currently dominant thanks principally to Putin’s support, and a hard-line camp. The Russian public largely supports the hard-line camp, whom one Putin adviser called the “hotheads.” Given Russian politics today, Putin is personally responsible for the fact that Russia’s revanchist policies are not more aggressive. Put bluntly, Putin is not the hardest of the hard-liners in Russia.
 
While none of the “hotheads” criticize Putin, even in private conversations, a growing number of military and national-security officials favor a considerably tougher approach to the United States and Europe in the Ukraine crisis. This is apparent in their attacks on such relatively moderate cabinet officers as Vice Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. From their perspective, the moderates fail to comprehend the gravity of the U.S.-European challenge to Russia and hold futile hopes that things can change for the better without Russia surrendering to an unacceptable and degrading foreign diktat. They recommend shifting the game to areas of Russian strength—by using military force to advance Russian interests as Putin did in Crimea and to pressure the West into accepting Moscow on its own terms.
 
An increasingly nationalistic Russian public also supports this “challenge the main enemy” approach, which draws its language and inspiration from former Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. Putin has clearly contributed to growing nationalist sentiments through his patriotic rhetoric and his harsh indictment of Western behavior. But he was pushing on an open door due to widespread disillusionment with Western treatment of Russia as a Cold War loser rather than an ally in building a new world order. What’s more, ordinary Russians may have gone further in their truculent views than Putin himself. Not long ago, Russia’s media widely reported a warning from the recently dismissed rebel commander Igor Strelkov, who said that by being too indecisive, Putin would satisfy no one and would suffer the same fate as Slobodan Milosevic—rejection by liberals and nationalists alike. More recently, Strelkov has reportedly placed Putin’s portrait prominently in his office, explaining that in his view the Russian president “understood that all compromise with the West is fruitless” and that he is “reestablishing Russian sovereignty.” Strelkov often exaggerates, but his views reflect the frustrations of Russia’s influential nationalist coalition.
 
Added support for a more muscular assertiveness comes from an expanding group of military officers and civilians who believe that Russia can brandish its nuclear weapons to good effect. According to this group, Russia’s nuclear arsenal is not just its ultimate security blanket but also a sword it can wield to coerce others who have no nuclear weapons, as well as those who are unwilling to think the unthinkable of actually exploding a nuclear bomb. Putin appeared to endorse this view in his controversial Sochi speech last September when he said:
 

Nikita Khrushchev hammered the desk with his shoe at the UN. And the whole world, primarily the United States and NATO, thought, “This Nikita is best left alone, he might just go and fire a missile. We better show some respect for them.” Now the Soviet Union is gone and there is no need to take into account Russia’s views. It has gone through transformation during the collapse of the Soviet Union, and we can do whatever we like, disregarding all rules and regulations.
 
The director of the television network Rossiya Segodnya, Dmitry Kiselyov, has been more explicit, repeatedly warning, “Russia is the only country in the world that is realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash.” Russia’s 2014 Military Doctrine emphasizes that Russia will use nuclear weapons not only in response to nuclear attacks but also “in the case of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons.” And, as a recent report of the European Leadership Network notes, there have been almost forty incidents in the past year in which Russian forces engaged in a pattern of provocations that, if continued, “could prove catastrophic.”

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on April 20, 2015, 10:27:35
Part 2

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Counterintuitive though it may seem, Russia’s weakening economy is also unlikely to create public pressure for concessions. On the contrary, the damage to an already-stagnant Russian economy suffering from low energy prices is actually reducing Putin’s foreign-policy flexibility. Russia’s president needs to show that his country’s suffering has been worth it. Retreat could severely damage Putin’s carefully cultivated image as a strong man—a style Russians have historically appreciated—and alienate his hypernationalist political base. They resent sanctions, which they see as hurting ordinary people much more than Putin’s entourage, and they want their leaders to resist, not capitulate. For many, Russia’s dignity is at stake.
 
This came through clearly in a recent conversation with a top Russian official. When asked why his government would not try to negotiate a deal based on principles it has already articulated, such as exchanging Russian guarantees of Ukraine’s territorial integrity minus Crimea and Ukraine’s right to move toward the European Union for Western guarantees that Ukraine would not join NATO and that the United States and the European Union would relax sanctions, the official responded by saying, “We have our pride and cannot appear to be pressuring the insurgents to have sanctions reduced.”
 
 
 
THE KEY question is this: Will Putin continue to support the relatively moderate pragmatists, or will he turn toward the “hotheads”? So far, he has split the difference: Russia has provided effective but limited support to the separatists, while at the same time hoping against hope to restore many of its ties with the West (or at least with Europe). Putin has also tried to conceal the scale of Russia’s intervention in order to temporize and to exploit U.S.-European and intra-European differences.
 
Currently, the pragmatists retain the upper hand, in no small part because Putin has kept his government team almost intact both in the cabinet and in the presidential administration. While loyal to Putin and prepared to execute his agenda, that team consists primarily of officials whose formative experiences have been in establishing economic interdependence with the West and in attempting to make Russia a major voice in a world order predominantly shaped by the United States and its allies.
 
Foreign Minister Lavrov and others supporting his more pragmatic approach argue that Moscow can still do business with the United States and especially with the Europeans if Russia doesn’t close the door. The “hotheads” take the opposite view, insisting that the West would view any moderation in Russian policy as a sign of weakness. Portraying themselves as realists, they argue that NATO is determined to overthrow Putin, force Russia to its knees and perhaps even dismember the country.
 
Putin’s reluctance to change course dramatically so far explains his hybrid war in eastern Ukraine, which helps the separatists without Russia formally entering the conflict. It also underlies Russia’s unpersuasive denials that it is giving military support to the separatists, which simultaneously make Moscow subject to justified criticism and create unfounded hope in Washington and in Europe that Russia will be unable to absorb higher casualties in a war in which it claims not to participate.
 
Yet Putin’s attempt to pursue the pragmatists’ broad objectives while accommodating the “hotheads” on the ground in Ukraine may not be indefinitely sustainable. An increasingly prevalent view among Putin’s advisers sees hopes of a restoration of Western-Russian cooperation as a lost cause because U.S. and Western leaders will not accept any resolution that meets Russia’s minimal requirements. If the United States and the European Union would largely remove sanctions and restore business as usual, they would urge that Russia swallow its pride and reconcile. But if Russia is going to continue to be sanctioned, excluded from financial markets and denied Western technology, they say, then Russia should pursue its own independent path. Putin has yet to face a decisive moment that would require him to make a fateful choice between accommodating Western demands and more directly entering the conflict and perhaps even using force against Western interests outside Ukraine. And if that moment arrives, we may well not welcome his choice.
 
 
 
SANCTIONS ASIDE, two other developments could force Putin’s hand. One would be the prospect of military defeat of the separatists; the second would be NATO membership for Ukraine.
 
Putin drew a bright red line precluding the first in an interview with Germany’s ARD television channel on November 17, 2014. Speaking rhetorically, he asked whether NATO wanted “the Ukrainian central authorities to annihilate everyone among their political foes and opponents” in eastern Ukraine. If so, Putin declared categorically: “We won’t let it happen.” In every instance when the Ukrainian military seemed close to gaining the upper hand in the fighting, and despite U.S. and European warnings and sanctions, Putin has raised the ante to assure the separatists’ success on the battlefield.
 
Though Russia’s president has said less about the second red line, there can be no doubt that Ukraine’s potential NATO membership is a preeminent Russian concern. One important reason for Moscow’s willingness to let Donetsk and Luhansk go back under central Ukrainian control with a considerable degree of autonomy is the Kremlin’s desire for their pro-Russian populations to vote in Ukrainian elections and for their autonomous local governments to serve as a brake on Ukraine’s road to NATO. Russia’s political mainstream overwhelmingly supports preventing the emergence of a hostile Ukraine under NATO security umbrella less than four hundred miles from Moscow.
 
This feeling is grounded both in Russian security concerns and in nearly uncontrollable sentiments about Ukraine and its Russian-speaking population. The growing popularity of the slogan Rossiya ne brosayet svoikh—Russia does not abandon its own—reflects these feelings and resembles Russia’s pan-Slavic attitudes toward Serbia before World War I. One of us saw a powerful example of these emotions while watching a Russian talk-show discussion about Ukraine before a live audience. A Russian panelist declared that “our cause is just and we will prevail” to thunderous applause. Importantly, the speaker, Vyacheslav Nikonov, is not only a member of the pro-Putin United Russia party and the chairman of the parliament’s education committee. He is also the grandson of former Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who made the same statement after Hitler attacked the USSR in 1941. Nikonov is known for reflecting establishment perspectives. The early nineteenth-century Savoyard diplomat and conservative philosopher Joseph de Maistre saw something similar in his own time: “There is no man who desires as passionately as a Russian. If we could imprison a Russian desire beneath a fortress, that fortress would explode.” Russian nationalism today is such an explosive force.
 
Little imagination is required to find possible triggers for a decisive change in Putin’s posture. The most immediate would be a U.S. decision to arm Ukraine’s military. Could some in Putin’s government actually be seeking to entice the United States into arming Ukraine? While this seems far-fetched at first blush, another Russian interlocutor made a thoughtful case that this is indeed the plan of some around Putin, perhaps even with Putin’s consent. According to this theory, this ploy has both a tactical and a strategic rationale.
 
Tactically, an announcement by Obama that the United States was sending arms to Ukraine would give Putin an easy escape from what has become an increasingly untenable denial of the obvious. To fellow Russian citizens, Putin and his government have unambiguously and repeatedly insisted that Russia is not a party to the conflict, despite the fact that pro-Russian government politicians and separatist leaders brag about Moscow’s help on television. Even after the downing of the Malaysian airliner killed nearly three hundred last July, and despite continuous Western reporting of the facts, Putin has stuck to his story.
 
An announcement that Washington was arming Ukraine would, it is argued, give Putin the pretext he needs to affirm his narrative. He has claimed that the United States sponsored the Maidan coup that ousted Yanukovych, a democratically elected president, and has been supporting the current government’s war against fellow Russians in eastern Ukraine. Overtly arming Ukraine will thus unmask previously covert American activity and justify Russia responding with arms or even troops, initiating a game of escalation that plays to his strength.
 
Strategically, this would be what chess masters call a trap. By shifting the competition from the economic chessboard (where the United States and Europe have all the powerful pieces) to a military one, he will have moved from weakness to strength. In the military arena, Putin owns the commanding heights: there is hardly a weapon the United States can provide Kiev that Russia can’t match or trump; logistically, he can send arms by road, rail, sea and air across a porous border, while the United States is a continent away; within the ranks of Ukraine’s military, he has hundreds or even thousands of agents and collaborators. And, most importantly, as he has already demonstrated, the Russian military forces are prepared not only to advise separatists but also to fight alongside them—and to kill and to die. He assumes that the United States will never put boots on the ground in Ukraine. The more vividly he can drive this home to Europeans, so hard-line thinking goes, the more respect he can command.
 
Hard-liners see this as Putin’s best chance to snatch what they call “strategic victory” from the jaws of defeat. As they see it, Russia’s comparative advantage in relations with Europe and the United States is not economics. Instead, it is deploying military power. Europeans have essentially disarmed themselves and show little will to fight. Americans undoubtedly have the most powerful military on earth and are often prepared to fight. But even though they win all the battles, they seem incapable of winning a war, as in Vietnam or Iraq. In Ukraine, the “hotheads” hope, Russia can teach the Europeans and Americans some hard truths. The professionally executed operation that annexed Crimea virtually without a shot was the first step. But the deeper the United States can be sucked into Ukraine and the more visibly it is committed to achieving unachievable goals like the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the better from this hawkish Russian perspective. On the battlefield of war in Ukraine, Russia has what Cold War strategists named “escalation dominance”: the upper hand at every step up the escalation ladder. This is a proxy war the United States cannot win and Russia cannot lose—unless America is willing to go to war itself.
 
 
 
THE PRIMARY audience for this drama is, of course, Europe. The fact that neither European members of NATO nor the United States can save Ukraine is hoped to sink into the consciousness of postmodern Europeans. When it does, according to this logic, a skillful combination of intimidation and intimation of hope should give Russia an opening to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe, providing relief from the most onerous sanctions and access to European financial markets.
 
Initially, Putin will attempt to exploit the expiration of EU sanctions, which are scheduled to expire in July. If that fails, however, and the European Union joins the United States in imposing additional economic sanctions, such as excluding Moscow from the SWIFT financial clearing system, Putin would be tempted to respond not by retreating, but by ending all cooperation with the West and mobilizing his people against a new and “apocalyptic” threat to Mother Russia. As a leading Russian politician told us, “We stood all alone against Napoleon and against Hitler. It was our victories against aggressors, not our diplomacy, that split enemy coalitions and provided us with new allies.”
 
At that point, Putin would likely change both his team and the thrust of his foreign policy. As a senior official said, “The president values loyalty and consistency, so letting people go and announcing fundamental policy changes comes hard to him. But he is a decisive man and when he reaches a decision, he does whatever it takes to get results.” This would mean a significantly more belligerent Russian policy across all issues driven by a narrative about a Western campaign to undermine the regime or indeed to cause the collapse of the country. Among other things, it would likely mean an end to cooperation on projects like the International Space Station, supplies of strategic metals like titanium, dealing with Iran’s nuclear program and stabilizing Afghanistan. In the latter case, this could include not only pressuring Central Asian states to curtail security cooperation with the United States, but also exploiting political differences in the Afghan ruling coalition to support the remnants of the Northern Alliance.
 
 
 
ONCE THE U.S.-Russian relationship enters the zone of heated confrontation, senior military officers on both sides will inevitably play a greater role. As the world saw in the lead-up to World War I, when the security dilemma takes hold, what look like reasonable precautions to one side may well appear as evidence of likely aggression to the other. Clausewitz describes the relentless logic that pushes each side toward “a new mutual enhancement, which, in pure conception, must create a fresh effort towards an extreme.” Commanders have to think in terms of capabilities rather than intentions. This pushes them toward steps that are tactically prudent but that invite strategic misinterpretation.
 
Predictably, leaders and their military advisers will also miscalculate. Before World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II did not believe that Russia would dare to go to war because its defeat by Japan less than a decade earlier had demonstrated the Russian military’s incompetence. At the same time, Russian defense minister Vladimir Sukhomlinov was assuring the czar that Russia was ready for battle and that Germany had already decided to attack. As Sukhomlinov said in 1912, “Under any circumstances the war is unavoidable and it is advantageous for us to start it sooner rather than later . . . His Majesty and I believe in the army and know that the war will only bring good things to us.” In Berlin, the German General Staff also argued for quick action, fearing the impending completion of a new network of rail lines that would allow the czar to move Russian divisions rapidly to Germany’s border. After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, as the crisis intensified, military commanders in both Russia and Germany rushed not to be the second to mobilize. As the Russian General Staff told Nicholas II, only an immediate and full-scale mobilization would prevent a quick defeat, if not of Russia itself, then at least of France, whose long-term support Russia needed to withstand the German assault.
 
 
 
LATVIA, ESTONIA, and Lithuania form the Achilles’ heel of the NATO alliance. They are protected by its Article 5 guarantee that an attack upon one will be regarded as an attack upon all. Thus, the United States has an unambiguous and undeniable responsibility to deter and defend attacks on the Baltic states. Given their size, proximity to Russia and substantial Russian-speaking minorities, this is a daunting requirement. It is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which either U.S. or Russian action could set in motion a chain of events at the end of which American and Russian troops would be killing each other.
 
There is currently a lively discussion among Russian hard-liners about how Russian dominance in both conventional forces and tactical nuclear weapons in Central and Eastern Europe could be used to Russia’s advantage. Putin has talked publicly about his willingness to use nuclear weapons to repel any effort to retake Crimea—noting that he relied on Russia’s nuclear arsenal during the Crimean operation. In these debates, many ask whether President Obama would risk losing Chicago, New York and Washington to protect Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius. It is a troubling question. If you want to either dumbfound or silence a table next to you in a restaurant in Washington or Boston, ask your fellow diners what they think. If stealthy Russian military forces were to take control of Estonia or Latvia, what should the United States do? Would they support sending Americans to fight for the survival of Estonia or Latvia?
 
Imagine, for example, an uprising of ethnic Russians in Estonia or Latvia, either spontaneously or at the instigation of Russian security services; a heavy-handed response by that nation’s weak police and military forces; an appeal by ethnic Russians to Putin to honor his “Putin Doctrine” declaration during the liberation of Crimea that he would come to the defense of ethnic Russians wherever they were attacked; an attempted replay of the hybrid war against Ukraine; and a confrontation with the battalion of six hundred American or NATO forces now on regular rotations through the Baltic states. Some Russians have gone so far as to suggest that this would provide sufficient provocation for Moscow to use a tactical nuclear weapon; Russia’s ambassador to Denmark, for example, recently threatened that Danish participation in NATO’s missile-defense system would make it “a target for Russian nuclear weapons.” What’s more, Russia is exploring stationing Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad—the Russian enclave between Lithuania and Poland—while Sweden’s intelligence has publicly stated that it views Russian intelligence operations as preparation for “military operations against Sweden.”

 
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Thucydides on April 20, 2015, 10:28:00
Part 3

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IN A climate of mutual suspicion further fueled by domestic politics on both sides, assurances of benign intentions rarely suffice. Christopher Clark’s 2013 book, The Sleepwalkers, provides a persuasive account of how, in the days preceding World War I, both alliances contemptuously dismissed the explanations and assurances they heard from the other side.
 
Of course, alliances are now Putin’s weakest point. Russia does not have a single ally committed to supporting Moscow in war. Nevertheless, one should be cautious about counting on Moscow’s isolation in a longer-term confrontation with the West. One reason Kaiser Wilhelm II presented his ultimatum to Russia was that he did not believe England would join Russia in a war over the crisis in the Balkans, where London had traditionally opposed Russian influence. Furthermore, without England, few expected France to offer much resistance. What those who count on Russian isolation today do not properly take into account is that a powerful and assertive alliance prepared to pursue its interests and promote its values inevitably stimulates antibodies. It was that sense of Germany’s determination to change the geopolitical balance in Europe and in the world that prompted Britain to depart from a century of splendid isolation and become so entangled with allies that when war came, it had little choice but to enter. It is the same sense that is leading China today to expand its ties with Russia during its conflict with the United States.
 
To be clear, there is virtually no chance that China would join Russia against the United States and Europe in a confrontation over Ukraine. Likewise, China is not prepared to bail Russia out financially or to risk its lucrative economic integration with the West to support Moscow’s revanchist ambitions. But neither is Beijing indifferent to the possibility of Russia’s political, economic or (particularly) military defeat by the Western alliance. Many in Beijing fear that if the United States and its allies were successful in defeating Russia, and particularly in changing the regime in Russia, China could well be the next target. The fact that the Chinese leadership views this as a serious threat could, over time, push Beijing closer to Moscow, a development that would fundamentally alter the global balance of power.
 
Moreover, if there were a Russian-American war, one needs to think carefully about what actions the Chinese might choose to take against Taiwan, for example, or even to punish neighbors like Japan or Vietnam whom Beijing believes are cooperating with Washington to contain its ambitions.
 
Neither China nor Russia is the first state to confront a powerful and growing alliance. Nor is the United States the first to receive enthusiastic appeals from prospective allies that can add marginally to overall capabilities, but simultaneously bring obligations and make others feel insecure. In a timeless passage in his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides recounts the Athenian response to a troubled Sparta: “We did not gain this empire by force. . . . Our allies came to us of their own accord and begged us to lead them.” Needless to say, Sparta did not find that explanation reassuring—and that excuse did not prevent thirty years of war that ended with defeat for Athens, but at a price far beyond any benefits that accrued to the victor.
 
To recognize the potentially catastrophic consequences of war with Russia does not require paralysis in addressing the challenge of a resurgent but wounded Russia. The United States has a vital interest in maintaining its credibility as a superpower and in assuring the survival and security of its NATO alliance—and thus of every one of its NATO allies. Moreover, in international politics, appetites can grow quickly if fed by easy victories.
 
The Russian president’s currently limited objectives in Ukraine could become more expansive if Russia does not face serious resistance. After all, the smooth annexation of Crimea led to an outburst of triumphalist rhetoric in Moscow about creating a new entity, Novorossiya, which would include eastern and southern Ukraine all the way to the Romanian border. The combination of resistance by local populations, the Ukrainian government’s willingness to fight for its territory, and U.S. and EU sanctions quickly persuaded the Russian leadership to curtail this line of thinking. When a nation is prepared to fight for important interests, clarity about that determination is a virtue in discouraging potential aggression.
 
Yet the United States should be careful to avoid giving allies or friends—like Kiev—the sense that they have a blank check in confronting Moscow. During World War I, even such a strong supporter of the war as Pavel N. Milyukov—leader of Russia’s Constitutional Democrats and later foreign minister in the Provisional Government—was shocked at the lengths to which British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey would go in refusing to assign any blame for the conflict to the Serbs. “Listen,” he reports saying to Grey, “the war started because of Serb grandstanding. Austria could think that it was in serious danger. Serbia was aspiring to do no less than to split Austria.” To Grey, however, an ally could do no wrong.
 
The Balkan crises in the several years prior to World War I deserve careful study. Few at the time could conceive that they would become the flashpoint of a fire that would eventually become a continental inferno.
 
But they did. Meeting the challenge of an angry but weakened Russia today requires a subtle combination of firmness and restraint. Where vital American interests are engaged, we have to be able and willing to fight: to kill and to die. Effective deterrence requires three C’s: clarity about red lines that cannot be crossed (for example, attacking a NATO ally); capability to respond in ways that will make the cost of aggression greatly exceed any benefits an aggressor could hope to achieve; and credibility about our determination to fulfill our commitment. At the same time, we should recognize that if American and Russian forces find themselves firing upon each other, this would violate one of the principal constraints both sides respected assiduously during four decades of the Cold War—risking escalation to a war both would lose.
 
Military force and economic warfare such as sanctions are indispensable instruments of foreign policy. When employed without a sound strategic vision and artful diplomacy, however, instruments of coercion can develop their own momentum and become ends in themselves. Having managed a confrontation over the Soviet Union’s attempt to install nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba that he believed had a one-in-three chance of ending in nuclear war, President John F. Kennedy spent many hours reflecting on the lessons from that experience. The most important of these he offered to his successors in these words: “Above all, while defending our vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.” It is a lesson statesmen should apply to meet the challenge Russia poses in Ukraine today.
 
Graham Allison is director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former assistant secretary of defense for policy and plans. Dimitri K. Simes, The National Interest’s publisher, is president of the Center for the National Interest.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Good2Golf on April 20, 2015, 14:20:56
A very thought provoking read.

Given this thought:

Quote
Strategically, this would be what chess masters call a trap. By shifting the competition from the economic chessboard (where the United States and Europe have all the powerful pieces) to a military one, he will have moved from weakness to strength. In the military arena, Putin owns the commanding heights: there is hardly a weapon the United States can provide Kiev that Russia can’t match or trump; logistically, he can send arms by road, rail, sea and air across a porous border, while the United States is a continent away; within the ranks of Ukraine’s military, he has hundreds or even thousands of agents and collaborators. And, most importantly, as he has already demonstrated, the Russian military forces are prepared not only to advise separatists but also to fight alongside them—and to kill and to die. He assumes that the United States will never put boots on the ground in Ukraine. The more vividly he can drive this home to Europeans, so hard-line thinking goes, the more respect he can command.

What are Putin, his pragmtists and the "hotheads" to make of Canada sending 200 troops onto Ukraine soil?

Regards
G2G
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on April 20, 2015, 14:43:44
(http://stagevu.com/img/thumbnail/fupdpbyefpawbig.jpg)
(http://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/system/uploads/article_image/image/0000/4901/view_Kontraktniki.jpg) - St Petersburg
(http://d3819ii77zvwic.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Screenshot-2014-10-18-at-9.52.32-AM-300x213.png) - Stavropol
(http://www.dw.de/image/0,,17938266_303,00.jpg) - Moscow
(http://img.rt.com/files/news/24/d1/d0/00/8.si.jpg) - Novosibirsk

Putin has his own "traps" to worry about.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: E.R. Campbell on April 20, 2015, 15:40:23
I agree, broadly and generally, with Graham Allison and Dimitri Simes: we are, Russia and the West and, especially Ukraine, playing a dangerous game.

We have massive, absolutely overwhelming social and economic advantages.

We have the strategic advantage, too.

Russia has the local, tactical (operational level) advantage based on geography and concentration of force.

We face one threat on one front (East); Russia faces at least two threats on at least two front (West, South and East). But, as Drs Alison and Simes point out, we did ourselves no military-strategic favours by adding Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania to NATO. (Nor do Poland and Hungary do as much good as members as they would have done as buffers). The Baltic states, especially, are badly exposed and isolated.

All that being said, we should, in my opinion, reinvigorate the Cold War. We won it last time on, essentially, our social, political and economic strengths. We can defeat Russia, just as we defeated the Warsaw Pact, using the same tools. That may require Canada and Britain and Germany and many of the others to (unwillingly) spend more on defence and even assign troops to Eastern NATO regions (say in the Czech Republic) because we will want to force the Russians to waste money on the military when they really, desperately, need that (limited) money for productive national development. But, we can win, in my estimation, without firing a shot ... and it will be a victory worth having if it results in a new Russian civil war.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Boxtop22 on April 20, 2015, 15:52:56
I very much agree with 90% of Thucydide's three-part posts.

On the risk of nuclear warfare over the Baltic: I believe that neither the United States nor NATO (NATO isn't even allowed to offer negative-security assurances, anyway. And the B61-Mod-11 are pretty old weapons that would require NATO sending pilots in very-hot areas) are willing to use Area-denial nuclear devices to protect Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. The US congress had already opposed the concept of an automatic declaration of war if Japan was to be attacked by China. If they won't stand up for Japan against China, they won't stand up for the Baltic against Russia. What would even be the point of losing thousands of man and risking a nuclear warfare to retake the Baltic, and why would Russia even take the Baltic at this point? The very same congress also questioned the validity of Article V, saying that no foreign treaty should have the power to send the United States to war as it could be a breach of her sovereignty. It would require an incredible escalation for Russia to consider this move. If anything (in a parallel universe) it's a safer (even though more challenging) bet for Putin to take Visby - since Sweden isn't a NATO member - and then force panicked leaders to negotiate a peace treaty trading Visby back for the independence of Eastern-Ukraine, than it would be to take Tallinn, Riga and/or Vilnius.

Putin does not want the Baltic, he is trying to make a point. The Soviet Union collapsed, and all we did (I'm not judging the morality of the actions) was look at it agonize, offer her some help, on the condition that Russia basically sell herself to us (cf. the HIID / USAID / Chubais group). Putin's first objective following his election was to give autonomy and might to the Russia he admired as a former senior officer.

I think his second objective is to reaffirm the power of Russia. One way would be to force a redefinition of the Global Order - which is a very dangerous path, because China doesn't not want such a redefinition. The alternative is to use Russia's military might, to force the West to recognize her as a very serious threat, and to force the West to sit down and renegotiate the role of Russia in the world. There is a diplomatic way out of this nightmare, unlike Campbell, I disagree with reinvigorating the Cold-War. It made the world unstable, it forces conflicts, removed democratically-elected leaders, and almost resulted in Nuclear Warfare on more than one occasion. We must prepare for war, we must be ready for war, but I think we must do what we can to prevent it. Another Cold-War is not an acceptable option at this point, not because a self-centered Russian President decided to fudge crap up in Ukraine. A Cold-War in our century, with our technology could swing in either way, we live in a much different world, with many more variables, and if we have learned from the Cold War, so have they. You learn more from a defeat than you do from a victory. Oh and given the number of GRU / FSB people all over Ottawa, I'm not sure we want to get into a cold-war before we clean our own-backyard...

Finally, I'd like to quote Kissinger's World Order. He analyzes Russia's historical behaviour in a Western context, and I think most of the following is still very accurate today. It's part of Russia's strategic culture.

"In the Westphalian concept of order, European statesmen came to identify security with a balance of power and with restraints on its exercise. In Russia's experience of history, restraints on power spelled catastrophe: Russia's failure to dominate its surroundings, in this view, had exposed it to the Mongol invasions and plunged it into its nightmarish "Time of Troubles" (a fifteen-year dynastic interregnum before the founding of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613, in which invasions, civil wars, and famine claimed a third of Russia's population). The Peace of Westphalia saw international order as an intricate balancing mechanism; the Russian view cast it as a perpetual contest of wills, with Russia extending its domain at each phase to the absolute limit of its material resources. Thus, when asked to define Russia's foreign policy, the mid-seventeenth-century Czar Alexei's minister Nashchokin offered a straightforward description: "expanding the state in every direction, and this is the business of the Department of Foreign Affairs ... When it was strong, Russia conducted itself with the domineering certainty of a superior power and insisted on formal shows of deference to its status. When it was weak, it masked its vulnerability though brooding invocations of vast inner reserves of strength. In either case, it was a special challenge for Western capitals used to dealing with a somewhat more genteel style."

[I'm still new here, so do tell me if you think I lack clarity, if I'm breaking some sort of Milnet culture, or if I'm doing anything wrong. I may get a little over-enthusiastic when it comes to discussing Russia...]
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Good2Golf on April 20, 2015, 16:11:16
Far earlier in this thread it was mentioned briefly that the one thing that Putin would actually NOT at all want is for Ukraine to "give" (with Western support to relocate ethnic Ukrainians) the East and South (but not South-West Odessa) to the Ethnic-Russian majority and the resultant direct-dependnace this Novorossia' would have on Russia and the impact it would have on Russia's economic growth (or contraction, most likely).  Western pride would have a hard time letting that happen, but with a decent enough relocation package and National support of the displaced Ukrainians, it would give the Russians the very thing they may not have ever counted on truly getting.  "Careful what you (surreptitiously) ask for, Russia...you may just get it."

:2c:

Regards
G2G
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Technoviking on April 20, 2015, 19:13:25
We do not have the stomach for expanding our armies for another Cold war. We have fronts with which we can barely contend. (Syria, Iraq, the expanding  ISIS threats...)
We ought to make some noise, then quietly fade away. Period. Our Twitter generation is too involved with self gratification than to worry about some poor slob Slavs fighting each other over some place they've never heard about. Especially when it's not they who have threatened us on YouTube videos  as they behead their prisoners.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on April 20, 2015, 21:04:22
We do not have the stomach for expanding our armies for another Cold war. We have fronts with which we can barely contend. (Syria, Iraq, the expanding  ISIS threats...)
We ought to make some noise, then quietly fade away. Period. Our Twitter generation is too involved with self gratification than to worry about some poor slob Slavs fighting each other over some place they've never heard about. Especially when it's not they who have threatened us on YouTube videos  as they behead their prisoners.

For a change we agree....

With respect to the separation of the Donbas from Ukraine, I guess that is what is behind Ukraine Starts Building Wall to Keep Russia Out (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/ukraine-starts-building-wall-to-keep-russia-out/506828.html).

Obviously Ukraine can't control entry to the Donbas but they can control egress into the rest of Ukraine.  That barrier will clearly delineate those Ukrainians Kyiv can help and those that are beyond help.  Ukraine can deliver aid to the barrier.  It can allow Ukrainians across the barrier. It will have no need for military vehicles beyond the barrier.  It could even leave the Russians in "peace" beyond the barrier and let the Separatists stew.

With respect to military aid, we could supply Ukraine with any weapons or systems that allow them to defeat any conventional military hardware that crosses the barrier.

Ukraine doesn't have to cede sovereignty over the Donbas. It can even try to enter its own sovereignty territory with civilians.  This would shift the onus on to those east of the barrier.

At that point it becomes a mini-variant of the Cold War and in some ways results in a "frozen war" like Transdniestria or South Ossetia.  The difference is the zone is quarantined.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: S.M.A. on April 21, 2015, 16:25:34
Another political dissident weighs in on Putin:

Vox.com (http://www.vox.com/2015/4/21/8458697/russia-putin-ilya-ponomarev)

Quote
Exiled Russian lawmaker explains why Putin isn't afraid of Obama
Updated by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub on April 21, 2015, 8:00 a.m. ET

On March 20, 2014, when Russia's State Duma voted on whether to annex the Ukrainian region of Crimea into Russia, 445 of the Duma's legislators voted yes and one voted no. The "no" was Ilya Ponomarev, a longtime leftist politician and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Within a few months, Ponomarev was exiled from Russia and stripped of his legislative immunity from prosecution. Though he is still officially a Duma member, he now lives in the US and is attempting to organize a more formal opposition to Putin from outside of the country.

We spoke to him in Washington, DC, about the stability of Putin's rule, the Russian elites who help keep him in power, how things might change, and Putin's increasingly tense relationship with Europe and the United States. While Ponomarev believes change will come to Russia, he warned that it will take years — and believes it will likely come from a combination of Russian elites turning against Putin and popular unrest, not from the ballot box.

(...SNIPPED)

Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: MCG on April 21, 2015, 19:40:13
Does Russia need the Ukraine crisis to maintain domestic moral and order?

Quote
How Vladimir Putin tries to stay strong
Russia’s president is trapped by his own strident anti-Western rhetoric

The Economist
18 Apr 2015

A RELATIVE hiatus in the fighting in eastern Ukraine (at least until this week) and a relative stabilisation in the Russian economy are prompting two questions. Is the worst of the war over and might better economic news calm the Kremlin—or is this a lull before a new storm?
 
The economic situation is not as bad as many predicted four months ago. Having lost half its value, the rouble has stabilised and even started to strengthen, thanks in part to a recent rise in oil prices. Inflation is running at 17% but is rising more slowly than many feared. Instead of a 5% contraction, the economy may shrink by only 3% this year. “The situation is not as catastrophic as many people thought,” is how a senior Russia banker sums up the mood.   


Yet the fragile economic balance is not being used by Vladimir Putin as an argument for returning to peace and prosperity, but rather as evidence that he is standing strong against Russia’s adversaries. The state media have trumpeted the strengthening of the rouble against the dollar and the euro as a victory in the face of American and European enemies determined to ruin Russia.
 
The Kremlin’s narrative of war has long moved beyond Ukraine to the West in general. The claim that their country is at war may be news to Americans, but it has been drilled into the minds of many ordinary Russians. The prospect of a war with the West is now a big concern for public opinion. Some 81% of the population sees America as a threat, the highest proportion since the Soviet Union fell apart.
 
According to this narrative, Russia is under attack on all fronts—economic, ideological, Middle Eastern, European—and must respond accordingly. This week’s decision to sell the S-300 missile system to Iran is part of this response (see article). As for the supposed threat from the European Union, Channel One news recently instructed its viewers: “Put crudely, the EU started and flourished as a mechanism for redistributing the gains from the collapse of the USSR and former communist bloc. At some stage, however, the flow of resources from conquered markets started to run out and expansion to the east was the only option.” This expansion, it adds, has now been stopped by Russia; so the EU, deprived of new sources of prosperity, may soon crumble.
 
In this world of mirror images, America serves as Russia’s reflection and alter ego. It ascribes to America its own actions: incitement of violence in Kiev, support of extreme nationalists in eastern Ukraine, military involvement in the conflict. In a recent article, Sergei Naryshkin, Speaker of the Russian parliament, blamed America for “unleashing a military-political adventure” in Ukraine and stalling its peaceful resolution. “America needs the continuing bloodshed in the Donbas as a means of achieving something important for itself,” he wrote. The sanctions against Russia and the information hysteria in the Western media are a cover for America’s economic “gangsterism”, he added.
 
What are Russia’s motives and goals in this confrontation, and is it now trapped in a spiral of aggression? Russian officials talk obsessively of geopolitics, but the answers depend not on what the West does but on how the Kremlin calculates its risks at home, since staying in power is its main goal. A study commissioned by Alexei Kudrin, a former finance minister, and conducted by a group of Russian sociologists led by Mikhail Dmitriev of the New Economic Growth, a think-tank, suggests that the roots of Mr Putin’s actions in Ukraine lie in the Kremlin’s need to solidify its legitimacy after the growing discontent that erupted into street protests during the winter of 2011-12.
 
Those protests were driven mainly by Russia’s middle class, frustrated by its lack of prospects. After a decade of rapid income growth that boosted living standards, priorities shifted to such aspirations as better justice, education and health care that Mr Putin’s regime of crony state capitalism could not provide. In the eyes of the middle class, Mr Putin was becoming a symbol of stagnation rather than stability—so his ratings began to fall. Trust in the state media also wobbled. Observers started to compare the situation to the mid-1980s, when a frustrated intelligentsia became a driving force behind Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika. The protests in Russia’s larger cities started to resonate with economic and social discontent in poorer provinces, and risked erupting into an open social conflict.
 
Russia’s annexation of Crimea arrested this trend. Alexei Navalny, a leader of the protests of 2011-12 who memorably named Mr Putin’s United Russia a party of crooks and thieves, says that the president has hijacked the political agenda by substituting imperial nationalism for building a modern state. The annexation of Crimea won over provincial Russia and legitimised his rule even in the eyes of many who had protested against him two years earlier. As Mr Dmitriev sees it, unmet hopes of personal fulfilment were assuaged by symbolic victories for the state.
 
The war in eastern Ukraine and the economic crisis have turned the euphoria associated with Crimea into a paranoid and defensive patriotism aimed against the West, pushing Mr Putin’s approval ratings up to nearly 90%. The Kremlin can ill afford a real military clash with the West, but it will claim any signs of Western weakness as victories. To demonstrate its strength, it is brandishing its nuclear arms and flexing its muscles all around NATO’s borders. Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, a think-tank, says Mr Putin wants his nuclear threats taken seriously, and adds that the risk of nuclear war is greater than at any time since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. But the immediate goal of such intimidation is to persuade the West to drop sanctions, which would be presented at home as a huge victory.
 
Against this background a resolution of the Ukrainian crisis and de-escalation of tensions with the West would push the focus back onto economic and social problems, lowering Mr Putin’s ratings, just as happened after Russia’s war in Georgia in 2008. A continuation of the war in Ukraine and the stand-off with the West will keep his ratings up for longer. But while this may benefit Mr Putin, it risks leaving Russia isolated and economically stagnant.
 
Russia’s budget cuts are a good guide to Mr Putin’s priorities. The upkeep of the Kremlin and spending on the army and security services take 40% of the entire budget. But spending on health care and infrastructure has been reduced twice as much as spending on defence. Among other winners in the budget are the state media which spew out hatred and aggression.
 
The object of this aggression can vary: two years ago it was migrants and corrupt officials. Now it is the West, “national traitors” and a “fifth column” that included Boris Nemtsov, a liberal politician assassinated in Moscow in February. In this way the Kremlin’s aggression has become a narcotic that may lead to an overdose, causing it to lose control. Indeed, the mood could one day switch from an external enemy back to Mr Putin himself, not least because the image of America constructed by the Kremlin’s propaganda bears such a close resemblance to the reality of Russia.
http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21648678-russias-president-trapped-his-own-strident-anti-western-rhetoric-how-vladimir-putin-tries
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Boxtop22 on April 21, 2015, 21:14:32
At least a bit. There's a great article which covers the link between Ukraine, foreign enemies and domestic power.

I'll copy-paste it since it requires a membership.

Source: http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/04/21/putins-empire-of-the-mind/


Putin’s Empire of the Mind

How Russia's president morphed from realist to ideologue -- and what he'll do next. BY MARK GALEOTTI, ANDREW S. BOWEN APRIL 21, 2014

A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of Russian imperialism. When Vladimir Putin first came to power in 1999, he talked ideologically but acted rationally. He listened to a range of opinions, from liberal economist Alexei Kudrin to political fixer Vladislav Surkov — people willing to tell him hard truths and question groupthink. He may have regarded the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century, but he knew he couldn’t re-create it. Perhaps the best metaphor is that while he brought back the Soviet national anthem, it had new words. There was no thought of returning Russia to the failed Soviet model of the planned economy. And as a self-professed believer who always wears his baptismal cross, Putin encouraged the once-suppressed Russian Orthodox Church. He was a Russian patriot, but he also was willing to cooperate with the West when it suited his interests. One of the first leaders to offer his condolences after the 9/11 attacks, Putin shared Russian intelligence on al Qaeda with the United States. He did not hesitate to protect Russia’s interests against the West — in 2008 Putin undercut any thought of NATO expansion into Georgia by launching a war against its vehemently pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili — but Putin’s challenges were carefully calibrated to minimize repercussions while maximizing gains. He shut off gas to Ukraine, unleashed hackers on Estonia, and, yes, sent troops into Georgia, but he made sure that the costs of asserting regional hegemony were limited, bearable, and short term. But that was the old Putin. Today, the West faces a rather different Russian leader. After all, the annexation of Crimea, by any rational calculation, did not make sense. Russia already had immense influence on the peninsula, but without the need to subsidize it, as Ukraine had. (Russia has already pledged $1.5 billion to support Crimea.) The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s position in the Crimean seaport of Sevastopol was secure until 2042. Any invasion would anger the West and force it to support whatever government took the place of Viktor Yanukovych’s administration in Kiev, regardless of its composition or constitutionality. In Putin’s actions at home as well, the Russian president is eschewing the pragmatism that marked his first administration. Instead of being the arbiter, brokering a consensus among various clans and interests, today’s Putin is increasingly autocratic. His circle of allies and advisors has shrunk to those who only share his exact ideas. Sober technocrats such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu played seemingly no role in the decision-making over Crimea and were expected simply to execute the orders from the top. This has become one of the new themes of Russian politics: the conflation of loyalty to the Kremlin with patriotism. It says much that dissidents at home, from journalists failing to toe the official line to protesters on the streets, are castigated either as outright "foreign agents" (every movement, charity, or organization accepting foreign money must register itself as such) or else as unknowing victims and vectors of external contamination — contamination, that is, from the West, whose cosmopolitanism and immorality Putin has come to see as an increasing threat to Russia’s identity. As a result, Putin’s relationship with Russia’s elite — now often foreign-educated, usually well-traveled, and always interested in economic prospects abroad — has become tortuous. Having provided members of the elite with opportunities during his first presidency, Putin not only mistrusts the elite now, but sees it as unpatriotic. Some $420 billion has flowed out of Russia since 2008, and in 2013, Putin decried those who were "determined to steal and remove capital and who did not link their future to that of the country, the place where they earned their money." In response, he launched a program of "de-offshorization" that has prompted major Russian telecom, metals, and truck-manufacturing companies to announce their return to Russia. And Alexander Bastrykin, the powerful head of the Investigative Committee and one of Putin’s closest acolytes, promised a crackdown on schemes designed to transfer money out of the country. These efforts are representative of a broader reconsolidation that requires the West to stay out of Russia’s politics and that prevents its ideas and values from perverting Putin’s country. In this context, Yanukovych’s ouster from the Ukrainian presidency was the inevitable catalyst for a decisive expression of a new imperialism. From the Kremlin’s perspective, a Western-influenced and -supported opposition movement in Kiev rose up and toppled a legitimate leader who preferred Russia over the European Union, in the process threatening the liberties and prospects of the ethnic Russian population in Ukraine’s east. Perhaps the world should have paid more attention when Putin made 2014 Russia’s "Year of Culture." This was to be when the country celebrated its unique identity — a year of "emphasis on our cultural roots, patriotism, values, and ethics." It was nothing less than a recipe for a new Russian exceptionalism, one that Putin himself would craft and impose. Seen in those terms, the turmoil in Ukraine did not merely allow him to step in — it demanded it. The imperialism that has sprung from Putin’s revived emphasis on Russian identity cannot neatly be compared with either its tsarist or its Soviet forebears. The tsarist empire was driven by an expansionist logic that would gladly push Russia’s boundaries as far as they could stretch. Although multiethnic, there was no question that ethnic Russians were the imperial race and that others — with a few exceptions, such as the Baltic German aristocrats on whom Tsar Nicholas I relied — were second-class subjects. This was Russkii, ethnic Russian, not Rossiiskii, Russian by citizenship. By contrast, Soviet imperialism embodied, at least in theory, a political ideology greater than any one people or culture and a rhetoric of internationalism and evangelism. Putin has spent considerable effort in forging a new Rossiiskii state nationalism. Absent is the visceral anti-Semitism of the Russian Empire, and the widespread racism and hostility visible within much of Russian society is not reflected in government policy. Nor does the president seem interested in expanding direct Russian rule (as opposed to political authority) or in exporting any particular political philosophy to non-Russians. At the same time, Putin thinks that "the [ethnic] Russian people are, without a doubt, the backbone, the fundament, the cement of the multinational Russian people." In other words, though ethnic Russians do not rule the state, they do provide the foundations for the "Russian civilization" on which it is based. Putin’s reference to Russia as a "civilization" signals itself a return to the time-honored belief that there is something unique about Russia rooted not only in ethnic identity but in culture and history — a belief that began when the country became the chief stronghold of Eastern Orthodoxy after the fall of Constantinople. As he put it in his 2012 state-of-the-federation address: "In order to revive national consciousness, we need to link historical eras and get back to understanding the simple truth that Russia did not begin in 1917, or even in 1991, but, rather, that we have a common, continuous history spanning over 1,000 years and we must rely on it to find inner strength and purpose in our national development." <
span class="pull-quote">Putin’s conception of what it means to be Russian combines the stern-jawed heroics of the Soviet defenders of Stalingrad with the exuberant loyalty of the tsar’s own Cossacks, while excluding the humanism of Andrei Sakharov and the ascetic moralism of Leo Tolstoy. It is a version of Russian history and philosophy cherry-picked to support Putin’s notion of national exceptionalism. In fact, he recently assigned regional governors homework, writings by three prominent 19th- and 20th-century intellectuals: Nikolai Berdyaev, Vladimir Solovyov, and Ivan Ilyin. These three, whom Putin often cites, exemplify and justify his belief in Russia’s singular place in history. They romanticize the necessity of obedience to the strong ruler — whether managing the boyars or defending the people from cultural corruption — and the role of the Orthodox Church in defending the Russian soul and ideal. In this, Putin is directly drawing on a classic Russian dichotomy between autocracy and anarchy, as well as on the country’s experiences during the 1990s, when there was no strong, consistent central rule and the country was beset by rebellion, gangsterism, poverty, and geopolitical irrelevance. In his 2013 state-of-the-federation speech, Putin made the connection between authoritarianism and social order, admitting, "Of course, this is a conservative position. But speaking in the words of Nikolai Berdyaev, the point of conservatism is not that it prevents movement forward and upward, but that it prevents movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state." THIS IS THE CENTER OF PUTIN’S IMPERIAL VISION: The pragmatic political fixer of the 2000s now genuinely believes that Russian culture is both exceptional and threatened and that he is the man to save it. He does not see himself as aggressively expanding an empire so much as defending a civilization against the "chaotic darkness" that will ensue if he allows Russia to be politically encircled abroad and culturally colonized by Western values at home. This notion of an empire built on the basis of a civilization is crucial to understanding Putin. There are neighboring countries, such as those in the South Caucasus, that he believes ought to recognize that they are part of Russia’s sphere of influence, its defensive perimeter, and its economic hinterland. But, he stops short of wanting forcefully to bring them under direct dominion because they are not ethnically Russian. Even when Moscow separated the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia in 2008, for example, it set them up as independent puppet states; it did not annex them into the Russian Federation. Putin does insist, however, that Moscow is the protector of Russians worldwide. Where there are Russians and Russian-speakers and where Russian culture and the Russian Orthodox faith hold or held sway, these are nash — "ours." Despite his mission to "gather the Russian lands" like the 15th-century’s Prince Ivan the Great, this does not necessarily mean occupying Crimea today, Donetsk in eastern Ukraine tomorrow, and Russian-settled northern Kazakhstan the day after, but it helps define what he thinks is Russia’s birthright. In his defense of the annexation of Crimea, he said that the Soviet Union’s collapse left "the Russian nation … one of the biggest, if not the biggest, ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders." Crimea, after all, is historically, ethnically, and culturally Russian, which is why, after its residents voted in favor of annexation, Putin approvingly noted that "after a long, difficult, exhausting voyage, Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their native harbor, to their native shores, to their port of permanent registration — to Russia." By contrast, the case to reach out to Transnistria in Moldova, for example, or even eastern Ukraine, is less clear. The Transnistrian Russians are relatively new colonists, arriving after World War II, and eastern Ukraine has Russian cities, but also a Catholic, Ukrainian countryside. Putin is putting as much effort into defending his vision of "Russian civilization" at home as abroad, and he has drawn a direct connection between the two. In the past, he was a patriot, a Russian Orthodox believer, and a social conservative, but he saw the difference between his own views and state policy and was little interested in enforcing a social agenda. Indeed, he warned in 1999 that "a state ideology blessed and supported by the state … [means] practically no room for intellectual and spiritual freedom, ideological pluralism, and freedom of the press — that is, for political freedom." But what he once merely frowned upon, Putin now wants to ban. The conservative backlash, with laws against gay "propaganda," the heavy-handed prosecution of members of punk band ***** Riot after their "blasphemous" performance in a church, and renewed state control of the media, all speak to a new moral agenda — a nationalist and culturally isolationist one. Just as Putin has been trying to "de-offshorize" the Russian elite, he is now launching what could be called a "moral de-offshorization." His more recent pronouncements have been full of warnings about the "destruction of traditional values," threatening the moral degradation of Russian society. The Russian Orthodox Church thus comes increasingly to the fore as a symbol and bastion of these traditional values and all that they mean for the new imperialism. Russian Orthodoxy was never an especially evangelical faith, concentrating on survival and purity over expansion, and much the same could be said of Putin’s worldview. In Putin’s previous presidency, the church was supportive, but just one of many of his allies. Now, though, from the pulpit to television news programs, the church is one of the most consistent and visible supporters of Putin’s state-building project. When interviewed on the subject of Crimea, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, one of Putin’s cassocked cheerleaders, asserted that the church has long believed that "the Russian people are a divided nation on its historical territory, which has the right to be reunited in a single public body." IN 1999, SOON BEFORE HE BECAME ACTING PRESIDENT, Putin released a personal manifesto in which he admitted that Soviet communism was "a road to a blind alley, which is far away from the mainstream of civilization." Now, he is looking for exit ramps from that mainstream. Speaking in 2013 at the Valdai International Discussion Club, he warned against "mechanically copying other countries’ experiences" because "the question of finding and strengthening national identity really is fundamental for Russia." It is a quest that he has taken upon himself in the name of personal and national greatness: A people with a destiny cannot be allowed to let him, themselves, their country, and their mission d
own. All this helps explain the difficulty that Western governments have in understanding and dealing with him, especially this most aggressively cerebral U.S. administration. It seems that much is lost in translation between the Kremlin and the White House. Putin is not a lunatic or even a fanatic. Instead, just as there are believers who become pragmatists in office, he has made the unusual reverse journey. Putin has come to see his role and Russia’s destiny as great, unique, and inextricably connected. Even if this is merely an empire of, and in, his mind — with hazy boundaries and dubious intellectual underpinnings — this is the construct with which the rest of the world will have to deal, so long as Putin remains in the Kremlin.
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: jollyjacktar on April 25, 2015, 14:57:36
A pretty slick video, I have to admit. 

Russian Armed Forces Response to NATO 2015 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4_Mk8nwB8E)
Title: Re: Russia in the 21st Century
Post by: Chris Pook on April 26, 2015, 12:09:27
An interesting blog on Russian Defence Policy (https://russiandefpolicy.wordpress.com/)

Some interesting takeaways from current articles:

Recruitment and Professionals suggests that move to a professional force is real but glacially slow - many are entering but few are staying around.  The vast bulk of the 700,000 PY force is made up of 1 year conscripts (half with less than 6 months training) and "professionals" with less than 3 years service.

The Plan calls for a 915,000 PY force by 2017 (all services and branches).

Quote
According to TASS, Goremykin told the assembled media that the MOD will very soon have 300,000 contractees, because it now has exactly 299,508.  He added that the military gained 80,000-90,000 men on contract service in 2013 and 2014, and has added 19,000 in 2015 thus far.

We can peel back the contract service onion as a result:

If, from this 299,508, we subtract 90,000 + 90,000 + 19,000, the Russian MOD had only 100,508 contractees as recently as 31 December 2012. Pankov claimed 186,000 contractees at the start of 2013.  The 85,492-man discrepancy represents contract attrition over the last 27 months, or an average loss of 3,166 contractees — an entire brigade of recruits — every 30 days.

As Mokrushin notes, General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov said there were only 295,000 contractees in late December.  If 19,000 were added in 2015 but the total is only 299,508, then a net of only 4,508 was added due to the loss of 14,492 contractees during those months.  Call that five percent attrition, but annualized it’s 20 percent.

We were told in early November 2014 that the Russian military, for the first time, had more contractees than conscripts.  Since there were 305,000 conscripts at the time, ipso facto, contractees must have numbered at least 305,001.  You can add the November-December losses — 10,001 — to 14,492 and you get 24,493 lost in five months.  That’s 4,899 per month on average — call that two brigades of recruits lost — every 30 days.

Russian recruiting centers have to keep a torrid pace just to stay even with these losses.

But back to Goremykin.  He said the MOD’s goal for 2015 is to reach 352,000 contractees, and plans for the outyears haven’t changed — 425,000 by 2017, and 499,000 by 2020.

With possible attrition of 27,000 over the next nine months, the MOD will have to recruit 79,000 contractees to be at 352,000 by the end of 2015.

Goremykin indicated the MOD will continue allowing conscripts with higher education to serve two years as contractees instead of one as draftees.  The percentage choosing this option isn’t large, but it’s growing, according to him. The six-year service requirement to qualify for a military-backed mortgage may be dropped to five years just to encourage this category of contractees to re-up.

The GUK chief said there are plans to make the Russian Navy almost 100 percent contractee, starting with its submarine forces first, then most of its surface forces.

According to RIA Novosti, General-Colonel Goremykin also announced this year the MOD will make its entire contingent of “junior commanders” (NCOs) contractees.  It intends to do away with the longstanding practice of selecting and making some draftees into sergeants.  Goremykin added, “This is a task for this year.”

Two take aways:

As always, it’s difficult to trust the MOD’s numbers; they tell us about additions, but not subtractions.
As shorthand, we tend to call newly recruited and enlisted Russian contractees professionals when, in fact, they have just signed up to become professional.  Whether they do is a function of whether they stay, get trained, and become experienced.  One senior Russian commander has said he considers soldiers professionals when they’ve served two or more contracts (6+ years).

And this report from the recent "surprise inspection" exercises.

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Not Enough Men or Transports

Another large-scale Russian military “surprise inspection” has concluded, and military commentator Ilya Kramnik has placed it, and other exercises, into perspective for Lenta.ru.

Interpreted as a prologue to war in Europe by some, the Kremlin-directed “surprise inspections” are the logical continuation of a process in recent years.  It is the process of developing strategic mobility through deployment exercises, according to Kramnik.

The latest six-day “surprise inspection” focused on deploying and redeploying forces in Russia’s Arctic regions, but President Vladimir Putin expanded it into a nation-wide exercise.

Kramnik focuses his analysis first on the Kaliningrad exclave.  Russia has practiced its defense of this region since the mid-2000s on an expanding scale. But the first large-scale drill in Kaliningrad, Kramnik says, was Zapad-2009.

Kaliningrad is where the pattern of special attention to troop mobility developed. In “surprise inspections,” military units from almost every armed service and branch were delivered by ground, rail, sea, or air transport to unfamiliar ranges in that region to conduct training missions.

The pattern has repeated in each of Russia’s “strategic directions.” Although Kramnik doesn’t describe it as such, it is, in effect, the establishment of expeditionary forces within the Russian military intended for internal transfer and use on any of Russia’s borders (or beyond them). 

If mobility questions play a key role in Kaliningrad, Kramnik continues, they are dominant when it comes to the Arctic.  All Arctic deployments depend on Navy and Air Forces transport capabilities.  Then he writes:

“It relies first and foremost on reestablishment of infrastructure which supports, if necessary, the redeployment [переброска] of troops by sea and by air and not requiring large numbers of personnel for daily service and security.  13 airfields, radar stations, repaired ports and other facilities allow forces to return quickly ‘in a threatening period.’  And to control the surrounding sea and air space a rather sufficiently compact grouping based here on a permanent basis.”

Kramnik concludes that Russia is confronting its weakness — armed forces not large enough to garrison its immense territory.  This increased attention to strategic maneuver is a means to compensate for an insufficient number of troops.  He takes a comment from Viktor Murakhovskiy:

“Today we don’t have a single self-sufficient grouping on any of our [strategic] directions.  This is the main reason for the great attention the Armed Forces leadership allocates to the potential for redeploying forces.”

Mobility, guaranteed by a developed railroad network, and in distant and isolated TVDs by the world’s second largest inventory of military-transport aviation, should support the potential for Russia, if necessary, to “swing the pendulum” — effectively maneuvering forces between different TVDs, Kramnik writes.  The capacity provided by the civilian airlines and fleet can also add to this.

But besides men, Russia also l