Category Archives: Russia

White House Brags Sanctions Put Russia On ‘Brink of Collapse’

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Confirming that they intend to impose a new round of sanctions on Russia, White House officials are seeking to claim “credit” for Russia’s recent economic woes, bragging that they have put Russia on the brink of an economic collapse.

Russia’s current economic problems center around weakness in the ruble. Russia’s central bank raised interest rates yesterday to try to stave off further inflation, but the weakness continued in today’s trading.

Wilson Center scholar Matthew Rojansky defended the sanctions, saying the logic behind them is to damage the Russian economy so much that it “starts hurting the Russian public’s ability to buy food or heat homes,” forcing Putin to act in the face of the crisis.

Russia’s economy is far from pushing the average citizen to the brink of starvation, however, though a new round of sanctions at this point makes it clear that is indeed the US goal.’

Putin Accuses West Of Trying To Sideline Russia

Hollwood Style Promo Released For Putin Speech

Putin Likens Crimea Takeover To A Bear Guarding Its Territory

China’s building a new Silk Road to Europe, and it’s leaving America behind

Pepe Escobar writes for Tom Dispatch:

‘[…] The Yiwu-Madrid route across Eurasia represents the beginning of a set of game-changing developments. It will be an efficient logistics channel of incredible length. It will represent geopolitics with a human touch, knitting together small traders and huge markets across a vast landmass. It’s already a graphic example of Eurasian integration on the go. And most of all, it’s the first building block on China’s “New Silk Road,” conceivably the project of the new century and undoubtedly the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade.

Go west, young Han. One day, if everything happens according to plan (and according to the dreams of China’s leaders), all this will be yours—via high-speed rail, no less. The trip from China to Europe will be a two-day affair, not the 21 days of the present moment. In fact, as that freight train left Yiwu, the D8602 bullet train was leaving Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, heading for Hami in China’s far west. That’s the first high-speed railway built in Xinjiang, and more like it will be coming soon across China at what is likely to prove dizzying speed.

Today, 90% of the global container trade still travels by ocean, and that’s what Beijing plans to change. Its embryonic, still relatively slow New Silk Road represents its first breakthrough in what is bound to be an overland trans-continental container trade revolution.

And with it will go a basket of future “win-win” deals, including lower transportation costs, the expansion of Chinese construction companies ever further into the Central Asian “stans,” as well as into Europe, an easier and faster way to move uranium and rare metals from Central Asia elsewhere, and the opening of myriad new markets harboring hundreds of millions of people.

So if Washington is intent on “pivoting to Asia,” China has its own plan in mind. Think of it as a pirouette to Europe across Eurasia.’

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Russia Rejects South Steam Pipeline Through Europe: Interview with Michael Hudson

Editor’s Note: Michael Hudson is a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and a former Wall Street analyst. He is the author of several books including he ‘Bubble and Beyond and Finance Capitalism and its Discontents.’

A Cold War Is On Between The West and Russia

A.G. Noorani writes for DAWN:

‘A Cold war is on between the West and Russia in right earnest. Its immediate cause is, of course, the Ukraine. But Prof John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and one of the few dissenters in the US, points out in Foreign Affairs that “the taproot of the trouble is Nato enlargement”.

The West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 aggravated the situation. “For President Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elec­ted and pro-Russian president — which he rightly labeled a ‘coup’ — was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a Nato naval base.” He began working to destabilise Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West.

This provoked a slew of unprecedented sanctions on individuals; tensions mounted as charges were traded.

Ukraine is not a Nato member, and is not covered under its umbrella, but it has expressed interest in joining. Three other former Soviet republics have joined the alliance since the end of the Cold War, as well as the former Warsaw Pact states of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Jack Matlock, former US ambassador to the then USSR is a scholar, who prizes objectivity over the claims of ‘patriotism’.

He said emphatically that “If there had been no possibility of Ukraine ever becoming part of Nato, and therefore Sevastopol becoming a Nato base, Russia would not have invaded Crimea. It is as simple as that. Why don’t we understand that other countries are sensitive about military bases from potential rivals not only coming up to their borders, but taking land which they have historically considered theirs?”’

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Gorbachev calls for U.S.-Russia summit to defrost ties

Alexei Anishchuk reports for Reuters:

‘Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called on Wednesday for a U.S.-Russia summit to be convened to prevent a deep freeze in Moscow’s relations with the West over the Ukraine crisis.

Gorbachev, whose policy of “perestroika” (restructuring) played a role in ending the Cold War, warned of potentially dire consequences if tensions were not reduced.

“This is extremely dangerous, with tensions as high as they are now. We may not live through these days: someone could lose their nerve,” he wrote in a commentary entitled “To unfreeze relations” for government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

“I suggest the leaders of Russia and the United States think about holding a summit with a broad agenda, without preliminary conditions,” he wrote. “One needn’t be afraid of ‘losing face’, that someone will gain a propaganda victory: this should all belong to the past. One needs to think about the future.”‘

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Father of the internet tells Russia’s Putin: Internet is not a ‘CIA project’

Guy Faulconbridge reports for Reuters:

The inventor of the World Wide Web said on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was incorrect when he alleged the Internet was a project created by U.S. spies in the Central Intelligence Agency.

Putin, a former KGB spy who does not use email, has said he will not restrict Internet access for Russians, but in April he stoked concerns that the Kremlin might seek to crackdown by saying the Internet was born out of a “CIA project”.

“The Internet is not a CIA creation,” Tim Berners-Lee, a London-born computer scientist who invented the Web in 1989 – the year that the Berlin Wall collapsed – told Reuters when asked about Putin’s CIA comment.

Berners-Lee said the Internet was invented with the help of U.S. state funding, but was spread by academics.’

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Going Underground Interview with Seymour Hersh

Editor’s Note: The interview with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh begins at 2:56

The Most Dangerous Time in Russian-US Relations Since the Cuban Missile Crisis: Interview w/ Prof. Stephen F. Cohen

Editor’s Note: Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of ‘Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War‘. You can find more interviews and articles by Professor Cohen here.

 

 

Former Soviet Soldiers Still Haunt Afghanistan — and American Forces There

Murtaza Hussain writes for The Intercept:

‘The strange odyssey of Irek Hamidullan has taken him from the former Soviet Army, to the Taliban, and now to a U.S. federal courtroom in Virginia. Hamidullan, who U.S. officials describe as a “Russian veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan” is believed to have stayed in the country after the war and joined the Taliban. He is accused of taking part in a 2009 attack on an Afghan and U.S. army border post in Khost Province. Incarcerated at Bagram ever since, Hamidullan is now the latest detainee to be put on trial in the criminal court system. He faces potential life imprisonment in the U.S. as a result of his activities in Afghanistan.

It may sound strange to hear that former Soviet soldiers are still living and fighting in Afghanistan decades after that war ended and the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist, but Hamidullan is only one of many Russians who ended up staying around after the occupation. At the outset of the American invasion in 2001, U.S. officials estimated that somewhere between 300 to 500 former Soviet troops were still living in Afghanistan. Some of these were soldiers who defected due to ethnic ties or sympathy with Afghan mujahideen, while others were former prisoners who converted to Islam and ended up integrating into Afghan society.

Unlike Hamidullan, most of the Russian Afghans (of whom we know) went on to live normal lives in the country and remained largely aloof from conflict during the years of the American occupation.’

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The Risk of Misreading Russia’s Intent

Former CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar writes for Consortium News:

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a crowd on May 9, 2014, celebrating the 69th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Crimean port city of  Sevastopol from the Nazis. (Russian government photo)‘Much of the discourse over the past year about responding to Russian moves in Ukraine has been couched in terms of the need to stop aggressive expansionism in its tracks. Hillary Clinton has even invoked the old familiar analogy to Nazi expansionism in likening some of the Russian actions to what Germany was doing in the 1930s.

With or without the Nazi analogy, a commonly expressed concept is that not acting firmly enough to stop Russian expansionism in Ukraine would invite still further expansion.

Underlying such arguments are certain assumptions about wider Russian intentions. If Vladimir Putin and anyone else advising him on policy toward Ukraine see their moves there as steps in a larger expansionist strategy, then the concept of stopping the expansion in its tracks is probably valid. But if Russian objectives are instead focused on narrower goals and especially concerns more specific to Ukraine, the concept can be more damaging than useful.

As long as historical comparisons are being invoked, one possibly instructive comparison is with an earlier episode involving application of military force by Russia or the Soviet Union along its periphery. This episode provides a closer correspondence than pre-war Nazi maneuvers, but it is still distant enough to provide some perspective and a sense of the consequences. It is the Soviet armed intervention in Afghanistan, which occurred 35 years ago as of this December.’

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Mikhail Gorbachev Blames American ‘Triumphalism’ For Bringing About A New Cold War

Paul Vale reports for The Huffington Post:

‘Mikhail Gorbachev has blamed America for bringing about a new Cold War, warning that “militarists” are pushing Europe to the brink of conflict by building fences around his country.

Speaking to the Russian state-owned news agency Tass on Monday, the 83-year-old former Soviet President said that “triumphalism” emanating from Washington had led to rising tensions between East and West, though he added there was still time to resolve the growing dispute before it led to direct conflict.

Reported by The Telegraph, Gorbachev said: “Now there are once again signs of a Cold War.” “This process can and must be stopped. After all, we did it in the 1980s. We opted for de-escalation, for reunification [of Germany]. And back then it was a lot tougher than now. So we could do it again.”

Gorbachev warned that building “fences” around Russia would only increase tensions. “Even Germany which after reunification presented itself very well and called for renovation is now just on the brink of a split [from Russia],” he said. “And now nothing takes place without the presence and a push from America.”‘

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Cold War II Begins? U.S. House Passes Resolution 758 in a Rare Show of Bipartisanship

Esther Tanquintic-Misa reports for the International Business Times:

‘The United States has effectively pushed the button of the 21st century Cold War era. On Thursday, its House of Representatives passed Resolution 758, a decree telling the U.S., Europe and its’ allies to “aggressively keep the pressure” on Russia and its President Vladimir Putin until such measures “change his behaviour.”

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama claimed Mr Putin is “isolating Russia completely internationally” and knows the Russian leader is not going to “suddenly change his mind-set … which is part of the reason why we’re going to continue to maintain that pressure.” As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia not to isolate itself during a meeting of the 57 members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the northern Swiss city of Basel, Resolution 758 had called for the reinforcement of NATO and the sale of U.S. natural gas to Europe, alluding away from Russian energy exports.

The resolution has likewise effectively given the government of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko the go signal to launch military actions against the “separatists” in Eastern Ukraine. Resolution 758 has called on the U.S. President to “provide the Government of Ukraine with defense articles, services and training required to effectively defend its territory and sovereignty.”‘

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Putin: Russia open to cooperation with West but will not be ‘dismantled like Yugoslavia’

Jack Moore reports for the International Business Times:

‘Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia will not cease cooperation with European nations and the United States, in his annual state of the nation address to the Russian parliament.

He warned that despite some countries’ wish to see Russia dismantled like Yugoslavia, he would not allow it to happen.

He criticised the “pure cynicism” of Western governments for attempting to install an iron curtain around Russia through sanctions, with Russia set to fall into recession next year.

The former KGB agent moved on to talk about Ukraine as a brotherly country but that the “tragedy” in the country’s eastern regions demonstrated that Russian policy was “right”.’

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The truth about Ukraine finally emerges

Patrick L. Smith writes for Salon:

‘[…] We have had, in the last little while, significant analyses of the Ukraine crisis, each employing that method the State Department finds deadly: historical perspective. In a lengthy interview with Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, none other than Henry Kissinger takes Washington carefully but mercilessly to task. “Does one achieve a world order through chaos or through insight?” Dr. K. asks.

Here is one pertinent bit:

KISSINGER. … But if the West is honest with itself, it has to admit that there were mistakes on its side. The annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest. It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia.

SPIEGEL. What was it then?

KISSINGER. One has to ask oneself this question: Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn’t make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine. So one has to ask oneself, Why did it happen?

SPIEGEL. What you’re saying is that the West has at least a kind of responsibility for the escalation?

KISSINGER. Yes, I am saying that. Europe and America did not understand the impact of these events, starting with the negotiations about Ukraine’s economic relations with the European Union and culminating in the demonstrations in Kiev. All these, and their impact, should have been the subject of a dialogue with Russia. This does not mean the Russian response was appropriate.

Interesting. Looking for either insight or honesty in Obama’s White House or in his State Department is a forlorn business, and Kissinger surely knows this. So he is, as always, a cagey critic. But there are numerous things here to consider, and I will come back to them.

First, let us note that Kissinger’s remarks follow an essay titled “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault.” The subhead is just as pithy: “The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin.”

Wow. As display language I would speak for that myself. And wow again for where the piece appears: In the September-October edition of Foreign Affairs, that radical rag published at East 68th Street and Park Avenue, the Manhattan home of the ever-subverting Council on Foreign Relations.

Finally and most recently, we have Katrina vanden Heuvel weighing in on the Washington Post’s opinion page the other day with “Rethinking the Cost of Western Intervention in Ukraine,” in which the Nation’s noted editor asserts, “One year after the United States and Europe celebrated the February coup that ousted the corrupt but constitutionally elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, liberal and neoconservative interventionists have much to answer for.”’

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Thom Hartmann: “Somebody’s messing with the price of oil and it could lead to depression or war”

How the Kremlin uses TV to shape political ‘reality’ in Russia: Interview with Peter Pomerantsev

Internet Freedom: The Rest of the World Gradually Becoming More Like China

Vauhini Vara reports for The New Yorker:

‘On Thursday, Freedom House published its fifth annual report on Internet freedom around the world. As in years past, China is again near the bottom of the rankings, which include sixty-five countries. Only Syria and Iran got worse scores, while Iceland and Estonia fared the best… China’s place in the rankings won’t come as a surprise to many people. The notable part is that the report suggests that, when it comes to Internet freedom, the rest of the world is gradually becoming more like China and less like Iceland. The researchers found that Internet freedom declined in thirty-six of the sixty-five countries they studied, continuing a trajectory they have noticed since they began publishing the reports in 2010.

Earp, who wrote the China section, said that authoritarian regimes might even be explicitly looking at China as a model in policing Internet communication. (Last year, she co-authored a report on the topic for the Committee to Protect Journalists.) China isn’t alone in its influence, of course. The report’s authors even said that some countries are using the U.S. National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance, which came to light following disclosures by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, “as an excuse to augment their own monitoring capabilities.” Often, the surveillance comes with little or no oversight, they said, and is directed at human-rights activists and political opponents.’

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The Future of Russian Private Military Companies

Alexey Eremenko reports for The Moscow Times:

[…] A bill filed with the State Duma late last month would legalize private military and security companies (PMSCs) in Russia, an idea endorsed in 2012 by President Vladimir Putin.

Enthusiasts say it is high time that Russia, with its strong military traditions, get a toehold on the global PMSC market, estimated at up to $350 billion last year, according to the bill.

The market is currently dominated by Western companies, and many developing nations would welcome PMSCs with different geopolitical affiliations, said analyst Ivan Konovalov, who last year co-penned a Russian-language monograph on PMSCs in Russia and around the world.

“But it will take a lot of effort to edge out existing players,” said Konovalov, who heads a for-profit think tank called the Center for Strategic Trends Studies in Moscow.’

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FIFA: Further Allegations of Impropriety Over 2018 and 2022 World Cup Bids Emerge

Mark Hanrahan reports for the International Business Times:

fifa.jpg‘Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, which has published a number of stories alleging that the bidding process for the two tournaments was corrupt, has turned over a cache of previously unpublished material to a committee of the U.K. parliament.

The material reportedly includes allegations of vote buying and vote trading between Russia and Qatar; that Russia gifted paintings from the archives of a museum to key voters and that former German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer’s vote was allegedly offered for sale by associates in exchange for millions of dollars worth of consultancy fees, according to the paper.

The material was sourced by England’s Football Association, which was responsible for running the country’s unsuccessful bid for the 2018 World Cup. The organization collected a database of rumors and intelligence, gathered by private companies, British embassies around the world, and former agents of the U.K. intelligence agency MI6, who were hired to spy on rival bidders.

The paper describes the allegations contained in the dossier as “unproven,” while a report from the BBC said that there is not clear evidence to support the allegations.’

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Foul Play! Anatomy of a FIFA Whitewash

From Private Eye:

Foul Play! Anatomy of a FIFA Whitewash‘It’s pass-the-toxic-“ethics”-parcel time again at Fifa’s glass palace above Zürich. President Sepp Blatter’s latest hired investigator has overdone his exoneration of Fifa’s venal leaders over claims they solicited bribes from Qatar and Russia. As the world hoots, the scandal officially closed two weeks ago has been reopened.

The “re-examination” of the evidence by Domenico Scala, a former CEO recruited from Big Pharma, will be in secret, as is the Fifa way. It will also lack the help of his colleague on Fifa’s audit committee, Cayman’s Canover Watson, who was charged last week with corruption, fraud and money laundering.

How did it all go so wrong for Blatter? His tame “investigator”, former New York prosecutor Michael Garcia, had successfully produced a secret whitewash in 2013, clearing Blatter of involvement in the notorious $100m scandal of kickbacks to Fifa’s leaders from a Swiss marketing company. In issue 1367, Columbia University professor Scott Horton told the Eye: “The one thing that could be predicted with utter confidence on the basis of Garcia’s professional career is that he would zealously protect whoever appointed him and paid his bills. He might actually go after corrupt figures, but only to the extent it served the agenda of the person who appointed him.”

But Garcia was too zealous this time, producing an “investigation” so generous to the Fifa crooks the FBI has been provoked to step up its own inquiries into Fifa money laundering and corruption.

Garcia had submitted his report in September, knowing Blatter would bury it. Garcia and the “Fifa family” had approved Blatter’s 2012 “ethics code” that rules out publication – and which cannot be changed unless the Blatter-controlled Fifa congress alters the rules in six months’ time.’

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Oil prices plunge after OPEC meeting

Have I Got News For You on FIFA’s corruption

Putin says he won’t be Russia’s president for life

Lynn Berry reports for AP:

‘Vladimir Putin has said he won’t remain Russia’s president for life and will step down in line with the constitution no later than 2024, according to an interview with a Russian news agency released Sunday.

Staying in office beyond that would be “detrimental for the country and I don’t need this,” he told the Tass news agency.

Putin, 62, has effectively led Russia since he was first elected in 2000. He stepped aside after two four-year terms to abide by constitutional term limits, but retained power as prime minister and was elected president again in 2012 to a six-year term.

Putin said his decision on whether to run for a fourth term in 2018 will depend on the situation in the country and his “own mood.”‘

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Some pro-Putin rap from African immigrants living in Russia

Russia’s Poor Feel Impact Of Sanctions

Putin: US wants to subdue Russia, but will never succeed

Reuters reports:

President of Russia Vladimir Putin.(RIA Novosti / Alexey Druzhinin)‘The United States wants to subdue Moscow, but will never succeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

“They do not want to humiliate us, they want to subdue us, solve their problems at our expense,” Putin said at the end of a four-hour meeting with his core support group, the People’s Front.

“No one in history ever managed to achieve this with Russia, and no one ever will,” he said, triggering a wave of applause.’

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Stephen Walt’s Top 5 Foreign Policy Lessons of the Past 20 Years

Stephen Walt writes for Foreign Policy:

‘Tell me, friend: do you find the current world situation confusing? Are you having trouble sorting through the bewildering array of alarums, provocations, reassurances, and trite nostrums offered up by pundits and politicos? Can’t tell if the glass is half-full and rising or half-empty, cracked, and leaking water fast? Not sure if you should go long on precious metals and stock up on fresh water, ammo, and canned goods, or go big into equities and assume that everything will work out in the long run?

Today’s world is filled with conflicting signals. On the one hand, life expectancy and education are up, the level of violent conflict is down, and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty over the past several decades. Private businesses are starting to take human rights seriously. And hey, the euro is still alive! On the other hand, Europe’s economy is still depressed, Russia is suspending nuclear cooperation with the United States, violent extremists keep multiplying in several regions, the odds of a genuine nuclear deal with Iran still looks like a coin toss, and that much-ballyhooed climate change deal between the United States and China is probably too little too late and already facing right-wing criticisms.

Given all these conflicting signals, what broader lessons might guide policymakers wrestling with all this turbulence? Assuming governments are capable of learning from experience (and please just grant me that one), then what kernels of wisdom should they be drawing on right now? What do the past 20 years or so reveal about contemporary foreign policy issues, and what enduring lessons should we learn from recent experience?’

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