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Russia in the 21st Century [Superthread]

The Bread Guy

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Bad genes or  :Tin-Foil-Hat: ?
Today, news broke about the death yesterday (3 January) of 58-year-old Colonel General Igor Sergun, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, better known as the GRU.

No cause of death has yet been announced, but there has been no suggestion of anything shady or strange about his demise, even at this relatively young age (especially by the standards of Russian military gerontocracy!). No doubt more details will follow tomorrow; today it’s just the hurried eulogies. Putin issued a statement that said “Colleagues and subordinates knew him as a real military officer, an experienced and competent commander, a man of great courage, a true patriot. He was respected for his professionalism, strength of character, honesty and integrity.” Defence Minister Shoigu and the Collegium of the ministry extolled “the bright memory of a wonderful man, a true son of Russian patriots of the Motherland […who…] forever remain in our hearts.”

Sergun was an extremely important figure in the revival of the fortunes of the GRU, an agency that was pretty much at rock bottom when he took it over at the end of 2011. Since then, it has regained control over the Spetsnaz special forces, been crucial in the seizure of Crimea and operations in the Donbas, emerged as the lead agency for dealing with violent non-state actors and generally consolidated its position as a crucial instrument of today’s “non-linear war.” Indeed, it was a perverse accolade to this effect that he was included in the EU’s post-Crimea Western sanctions list ...
More here.
 

The Bread Guy

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Chris Pook said:
I'm going with bad vodka.
OK, one may be bad luck, but two?  In a month?
... A week ago the general who led the invasion of Crimea, General Alexander Shushukin, also died unexpectedly, officially of a heart attack. Shushukin commanded the military operation of the Russian Federation during the annexation of Crimea in 2014, but before that he had been in charge of operations in South Ossetia ...
I know the holidays can be a stressful time and all, but RUS's VAC better start looking at participation in that Crimea thing as an early morbidity factor ...
 

Journeyman

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milnews.ca said:
OK, one may be bad luck, but two?  In a month?
Interesting connection, Shushukin and Sergun. I'm not going for my tinfoil hat just  yet, but both have links to Crimea and South Ossetia, possibly Grozny (although if I'm remembering correctly, at different points in the siege).  Shushukin was also in Kosovo when we were there, although he wasn't the ass-pain Battalion commander on our flank.
 

The Bread Guy

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On the sudden (?) death of GRU's boss, one think tank's "we've heard":
... The Russian government said he had a heart attack in Moscow on Jan. 4, but a Stratfor source heard a report that he died on New Year's Day in Lebanon. If the report that he died in Lebanon is true, it raises questions about what Sergun was doing in a country that is a hotbed for the world's intelligence services and why the Kremlin would cover up his death abroad ...
This (also attached), from Lebanon's Info-machine:
The head of Russia's secretive GRU military intelligence service, Gen Igor Sergun, has died suddenly aged 58, the BBC reported.

Expressing condolences, President Vladimir Putin called him "an experienced and competent commander, a man of great courage, a true patriot".

The circumstances of his death are not clear. He became GRU chief in 2011.

In 2014 he was placed on EU and US sanctions lists targeting top Russian officials after Russia's annexation of Crimea, in southern Ukraine.

The EU list said Gen Sergun was "responsible for the activity of GRU officers in eastern Ukraine".

Gen Sergun is not thought to have had direct combat experience when he took charge of the GRU.

After graduating from military academies, he joined the service in 1984, and had various posts before working as military attache in Albania in 1998.
:pop:
 

chanman

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I wonder if the death was anything as suspicious as that of the GCHQ mathematician found dead in a padlocked bag in his bathtub.
 

Kirkhill

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The really neat thing about having Russia run by an ex-KGB agent is it leaves open all sorts of new James Bond plot lines.

Howabout the one where Vlad decides to level the playing field and bring Europe down to Russia's level by encouraging a bunch of lecherous Arabs to go foraging for sex in Europe's public squares.  The Arabs are happy.  Europe is distressed and hamstrung because its women suddenly are kicked back four decades.  Europe no longer looks so attractive to Russians.  Win-Win-Win.

But that is too ludicrous, even for a Bond flick.
 

vonGarvin

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Europe did that to itself, assuming that those savages had a common sense of morals.
 

Kirkhill

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Random events

https://www.google.ca/search?q=helsinki+new+year&oq=helsinki+new+year&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60.5900j0j1&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/08/cologne-violence-suspects-include-asylum-seekers?CMP=share_btn_tw

http://www.returnofkings.com/77331/the-attacks-on-german-women-over-new-years-eve-appear-organized-and-planned

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/01/08/sex-attack-in-austria-too-police-deliberately-tried-to-cover-them-up/

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/01/08/multiple-new-years-eve-sex-attacks-in-sweden-police-compare-it-to-cologne/

Pure coincidence.

There are no state organs in existence dedicated to the premise of disruption of other states.

Vladimir Putin never held such a job.

Can I prove the connection?  No.

I don't think it is wise to discount the possibility - at least hypothetically.
 

vonGarvin

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The little flaw in that theory is that the savages would have to listen to an infidel.
 

Kirkhill

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No, in my purely fictional world of course, the three guys on the Cathedral steps are not infidels.  Vlad is not on the steps. 

An ISIS assault on Europe helps to distract from Ukraine and Syria and drilling in the Black Sea and building bases in Poland.

Cui bono?

The actions of leaders, the associations of leaders, have never correlated well with the beliefs of their followers.  Cardinal Richelieu is a good guide to the modern world.

Protestants allied with Turks against French Catholics.  French Catholics and Protestants against Roman Catholics.    Roman Catholics and Protestants against French Catholics.  French Catholics allied with Turks againt Northerners. And then good old common or garden freebooters (Sea Dogs, Sea Beggars, Corsairs, Sallee Rovers, Brethren of the Coast, Dunkirkers).  Private Enterprise.  Religion.  State Authorization.  State Encouragement.  Grog.  Booty.  Loot.  1525 to 1763.
 

The Bread Guy

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More satirical grist for the mill - a Putin parody Twitter feed suggests such a conspiracy can't be possible ...
My plan:
1 Fund Assad's slaughter to make refugees
2 Fund anti refugee parties in EU
3 Get Pro-Putin fascists popular
4 Get them elected
... not to mention this one:
We're at stage 3 but most of the West hadn't figured stage 1 even exists.
From a previous Tweet:
Reminder on how i'll break EU
1 Fund Assad's slaughter to create refugees.
2 Fund anti refugee parties in EU.
3 Criticize EU refugee policy.
Neeeeeeeeeeeeever happen ...  >:D
 

a_majoor

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One can only hope

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-13/russia-s-59-billion-budget-cushion-may-not-last-the-year-chart

Russia's $59 Billion Budget Cushion May Not Last the Year: Chart
by
Alexander Nicholson and Olga Tanas
January 13, 2016 — 6:29 AM EST

Russia Finance Minister: We Must Cut Budget by 10%
 
Russia’s Reserve Fund, which it uses to plug gaps in the budget, has slumped 30 percent since the start of last year. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov warned Wednesday that the buffer may be depleted entirely in 2016 if the government doesn’t enact bold spending cuts.

The fund, which was built from windfall oil revenue, stood at $59.35 billion at the end of November. That compares with a five-year high of $91.72 billion in August 2014. Russia’s budget is based on an average oil price of $50 per barrel, while Brent is trading near the lowest level in 12 years, slightly above $31. December fund figures are due to be released on Wednesday.
 

McG

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Does that not still look like they have more savings than we do?
 

a_majoor

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MCG said:
Does that not still look like they have more savings than we do?

True, but given the agressive posture that Russia has taken, the expeditionary forces in Ukraine and Syria, the announced production of new generations of fighter planes, tanks, submarines, missiles etc., not to mention the existing liabilities like pensions and the normal government sopending on day to day affairs like roads and garbage disposal, the sudden diminishing of their reserve fund deprives them of any cushion for unexpected events, and probably forces them to scale back on something.

What exactly they scale back on will be interesting; do they abandoin allies like Syria and Iran, allow Eastern Ukraine to fall back to the Ukrainians or risk rising discontent and potential unrest at home? A lot of Putin's power is based on paying off constituents to keep his powerbase intact.
 

The Bread Guy

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Journeyman said:
Interesting connection, Shushukin and Sergun. I'm not going for my tinfoil hat just  yet, but both have links to Crimea and South Ossetia, possibly Grozny (although if I'm remembering correctly, at different points in the siege).
It appears that being a General officer in the Russian system carries a fair bit of ... actuarial risk ...
gen_eng-1024x724.png

Source
 

George Wallace

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Are we witnessing another Stalin Purge Putin Purge?

Lot of "shot", "suicide", "poisoned", "car accident" ( although those may be legit after watching all those YouTube videos) and "heart attack" stats there.
 

The Bread Guy

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George Wallace said:
Are we witnessing another Stalin Purge Putin Purge?

Lot of "shot", "suicide", "poisoned", "car accident" ( although those may be legit after watching all those YouTube videos) and "heart attack" stats there.
Not to mention a couple of "fell outta windows" ...
 

a_majoor

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Russia blinks.

In my mind, the Saudis have no upside agreeing to this, since their strategic interests are best served by starving the Iranians of cash, and by extention Iran's allies and enablers, which includes Syria and Russia. I believe it is extrememy "Amerocentric" to see this as a coordinated attack on US unconventional oil plays (and by extension, Canadian oil sands) becasue the effects on fellow OPEC members is even more dramatic, and the effects are much farther downrange than the immediate effects of hamstringing Iran. I do accept that Saudi Arabia looks at the effects on Canada and the US as acceptable collateral damage.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/01/russia-blinks-and-wants-to-talk-to.html

Russia blinks and wants to talk to Saudi Arabia and OPEC about coordinated oil production cuts

Russian officials have decided they should talk to Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries about output cuts to bolster oil prices, the head of Russia's pipeline monopoly said on Wednesday, remarks that helped spur a sharp rise in world prices.

Oil futures surged more than 5 percent after the comments by Nikolai Tokarev, head of oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, which gave the strongest hint yet of possible cooperation between the top non-OPEC oil producer and the cartel to try to reverse a record glut.

On its own, a production cut by OPEC would provide only marginal support to the oil price under the present market conditions, as would a cut by Russia alone. However, if the two sides cut together, such a move would cause substantial ripples in the oil market.

The only problem for both is that it would be the ultimate fool’s gambit. The move would support the price; but what it will also do is give a whole lot of non-OPEC producers, including and especially ultra efficient US shale players who have kept going even at $30 per barrel, some much needed breathing room.

If Russia and OPEC actually go down such an improbable route, then it would a victory for independent US upstarts on an epic scale.

U.S. shale player Continental Resources said weakness in the energy sector will manifest itself in a slow decline in overall production through 2016.

Continental said in a statement laying out its plans for the year that first quarter production will average around 215,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and drop around 13 percent to 185,000 boe in the fourth quarter.
 
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