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Separatists in Donbas have more tanks than Germany, France, and Czech Republic combined

May 26, 2015

If anyone doubts Russia is behind this, they are deliberately choosing to be ignorant.


 The armed forces of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics” (“LNR” and “DNR”) have accumulated significant reserves of heavy weapons. According to deputy commander of the Anti-Terrorist Operation, Col. Valentyn Fedychev, as of 8 April 2015 Russia’s hybrid army in Donbas has 700 tanks, over 1 100 ACVs, 600 artillery systems, and 380 MRLS, as reported by compared the military power of “LNR” and “DNR” to that of several European NATO states on the basis of the annual report, The Military Balance 2014, prepared by the British International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think-tank.The Military Balance 2014 is a kind of reference book containing detailed data on the types and number of troops of the armies of the world as of 2013.

According to the IISS data, the tank fleet of the Russian-backed separatist “republics” is comparable to the total number of tanks in service with the armies of Germany, France and the Czech Republic. Poland boasts a more impressive fleet (893 tanks). As for artillery power, the volume of arms of the “DNR” and “LNR” surpasses all the Baltic countries together, as well as the German, French, and Czech armies. European NATO members, excluding the Czech Republic and the Baltic states, have an advantage over the separatists only in the number of combat armored vehicles. The French army’s fleet of armored vehicles is five times greater than that of the “DNR” and “LNR.”

An estimate of number of Ukrainian military vehicles opposing the “LNR” and “DNR” forces has been given by Aleksandr Sharkovskiy in an article in Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye [Independent Military review] on 22 May 2015, who has stated that his estimates are based on open-source data of the blogosphere.


NATO countries: The Military Balance 2014 report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
DNR/LNR: Data from ATO briefing, 8 April 2015
Ukrainian ATO forces: Data from Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, 22 May 2015


NATO countries: The Military Balance 2014 report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
DNR/LNR: Data from ATO briefing, 8 April 2015
Ukrainian ATO forces: Data from Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, 22 May 2015

It is difficult to estimate how much the proportion of power has changed over the last months, as there are conflicting messages. The latest data is that new shipments of military vehicles for the Russian-backed forces and Russian army in Donbas have arrived via the Russian railroad. Dmitry Tymchuk, independent Ukrainian military analyst and coordinator of the group Information resistance, in a post dating 24 May 2015 has stated that at the beginning of May the Russian Railway has transferred 80 MRLS (including Tornados), over 200 tanks, around 100 IFVs and APCs, and nearly 1000 lorries with ammunition to Donbas.

The Russian Federation continues denying its support for the separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas. However, the USA has recently changed its terminology, referring to the forces opposing the Ukrainian army to Donbas as “combined Russian-separatist forces.”


Feds’ ‘propaganda’ videos reflect ‘manic obsession with image management,’ undermine public service independence: experts

May 26, 2015

The videos public servants shot of Employment and Social Development Minister Pierre Poilievre glad-handing constituents and explaining Conservative tax breaks are “propaganda” that show the government’s “manic obsession with image management,” experts say, and they’re undermining the public service’s independence.

Public service experts and critics on the political right and left are calling for reforms to federal government communication and advertising policies after The Globe and Mail’s Bill Curry reported May 15 that Mr. Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.) had three public servants work overtime on a Sunday to film him talking to parents at a consignment sale in his riding about the Conservatives’ family tax benefits. Some are also calling for senior bureaucrats to intervene.

The government has already been criticized for its use of public funds for what many see as partisan advertising, and for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 24/Seven video series.

University of Ottawa research professor Ralph Heintzman—a former assistant secretary at the Treasury Board who wrote a paper for think-tank Canada 2020 last year about the politicization of the public service—said Mr. Poilievre’s videos provide “additional and very powerful evidence” that a Charter of the Public Service setting clear boundaries and regulating government communications is  “not only necessary but urgent.”

“They just prove the abysmal situation we’re now in and the urgency for measures to restore some degree of integrity and credibility to the public service,” he said of the videos, calling them “clearly partisan political propaganda” that contravene the Treasury Board’s basic rules.

The Treasury Board’s Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector states that public servants should carry out their duties “in a non-partisan and impartial manner,” and that “chief executives are responsible for ensuring the non-partisan provision of programs and services by their organizations.”

Mr. Heintzman told The Hill Times that Employment and Social Development deputy minister Ian Shugart shouldn’t have allowed public servants and resources to be used in a partisan way, and he was critical of Privy Council Clerk Janice Charette and Treasury Board Secretary Yaprak Baltacioglu “for allowing this kind of flouting of the general principles and values of public service to go on and to demoralize the public service.”

Opposition MPs—including Liberal David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.) whose private member’s bill would create an independent board to review government advertising and approve it as non-partisan—and NDP MP and Treasury Board critic Mathieu Ravignat (Pontiac, Que.) have called on Ms. Charette to explain why taxpayer money was used to create the “vanity videos.”

“If there’s any time in which the public service should be leaning over backward to emphasize its non-partisan character, it’s at this time,” Mr. Heintzman said, with a federal election five months away.

“If the clerk gave a clear signal that in a pre-electoral period she wants it to be clear to all the political parties that this is a non-partisan, professional public service that can serve any and all parties in an equally even-handed manner, she could make that very clear to her deputies and her deputies would know what to do.”

Mr. Heintzman said public servants should refuse to perform partisan tasks; while he admitted that’s difficult for those “down the food chain,” it “should be a piece of cake” for a deputy minister to intervene.

The major public sector unions have also criticized the videos as using public resources for partisan purposes.

Martin Ranger, legal counsel for the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said he doesn’t know of any complaints from members being asked to perform partisan work.

The procedure, he told The Hill Times, if there were such a complaint, would be to “obey now and grieve later”: the union would meet with the member to review the matter and discuss whether it’s worth filing a complaint under the under Public Servant Disclosure Protection Act to the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.

A spokesperson for that office could not say, due to confidentiality provisions, whether any such complaints had been registered.

The Employment and Social Development department launched a five-member “creative production team” in 2008 that has a $50,000 annual budget, in addition to salaries, to produce video and photography.

The department said it followed government policies in making the video, pointing to Treasury Board communications policy that “institutions must maintain a capacity for innovation and stay current with developments in communications practice and technology,” and that ministers are the “principal spokespersons” to explain government policies, priorities and decisions.

The government’s communications policy, revised in 2006, states that “Public service managers and employees are expected to provide information services in a non-partisan fashion consistent with the principles of parliamentary democracy and ministerial responsibility.”

Mr. Poilievre defended the videos in question period May 15 saying that he’s proud to work seven days per week and that the opposition parties object because they don’t support the tax cuts.

“We will continue to deliver these benefits and I will work aggressively to communicate the benefits that families deserve and are entitled to receive,” he told the House.

Josh Greenberg, director of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, said the argument that the videos fulfill the responsibility to inform the public is “unpersuasive.”

“Given the proximity to the election, the clearly partisan tone of the videos, and the fact that public servants were paid overtime on a weekend to produce them, I would argue they clearly violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules and limits circumscribing legitimate communication between the government and public,” he said in an emailed response to questions from The Hill Times.

The videos don’t provide information in a non-partisan fashion, he said, and “explicitly undermine and erode” the public service’s impartiality and integrity.

“In many ways, the videos are yet another example of the current government’s persistent efforts to blur the boundaries between the neutral operations of the bureaucracy with its own partisan priorities,” he said.

Prof. Greenberg said the videos fit into the government’s efforts, already seen with the 24 Seven videos, to bypass the press gallery and traditional media and shape public opinion by speaking directly to Canadians, even if it’s not reaching very many of them.

When The Globe reported the story, Mr. Poilievre’s videos had about 300 views each; by press time on May 21, one had about 5,700, the other almost 7,500.

“The videos are consistent with the government’s manic obsession with image management, but also its commitment to transforming itself into a media organization,” Prof. Greenberg said.

The government’s communication policy needs modernizing to establish clear rules and roles for public servants, he said.

Aaron Wudrick, federal director of advocacy group the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, also said he didn’t accept the minister’s response that he’s informing Canadians about government policy.

“He’s not really informing them about the policies when he does these videos. He’s talking about the values behind them, the principles behind them,” Mr. Wudrick said in an interview.

“He’s panning the entire government record from 2006. This is not informational stuff—this is spin, this is propaganda. This is not something the taxpayer should be on the hook for.”

The CTF has already been critical of the advertising spending and called for a law similar to Ontario’s to govern partisan government advertising. The same individual or body evaluating ads could examine activities like the Poilievre videos, Mr. Wudrick said.

David Coletto, the CEO of polling firm Abacus, said the videos show a blurring of lines between electioneering and the public service.

“I don’t think you can deny that these videos that he’s producing are promotional and meant to increase awareness about what the government’s doing but also to have people view it positively,” he said in an interview.

But he’s not convinced the backlash in political Ottawa over the ads and videos will matter to average voters, or whether the negative attention would outweigh the ads’ benefit of promoting the tax breaks to voters.

“If you don’t pay a lot of attention to politics, you probably don’t know this is happening,” he said.

His research on the ads shows most people view them as information like any other government ad, he said.

The Hill Times

The Ukrainian Crisis and European Security: Implications for the United States and U.S. Army

May 26, 2015

RAND’s latest publication on Ukraine and Russia … probably worth reading.

Abstract: Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex Crimea and attempt to destabilize eastern Ukraine have sparked widespread concern among Western policymakers that Russia has embarked on a confrontational national security policy that could have far-reaching implications for Russia’s relations with the United States and for European stability. The annexation of Crimea challenges two basic assumptions underlying U.S. policy toward Europe in the post–Cold War era: (1) that Europe is essentially stable and secure, thereby freeing the United States to focus greater attention on other areas, particularly Asia and the Middle East, and (2) that Russia had become more of a partner than an adversary. The annexation of Crimea and attempt to destabilize eastern Ukraine suggests that both these assumptions need to be revisited because Russia can hardly be viewed as a partner. The requirement that NATO may now have to build a much more robust deterrence and defense posture in Eastern Europe would require the Army and the Air Force to revisit their planning assumptions that have minimized U.S. military commitments to the region since the end of the Cold War.

Key Findings

Implications of the Ukrainian Crisis

  • The assumption that Europe had become a strategically stable continent has been overturned.
  • If the Department of Defense is tasked to help NATO build a much more robust deterrence and defense posture in Eastern Europe, the Army and Air Force will need to revisit planning assumptions that have minimized U.S. military commitments to that region since the end of the Cold War.
  • Russia’s military actions in Crimea and in the Ukrainian crisis demonstrated a new model of Russian military thinking, combining traditional instruments of Russian military thought with a new emphasis on surprise, deception, and strategic ambiguity.
  • The possibility of overt Russian military action against East European members of NATO cannot be excluded.
  • When added to the steady or growing demands for U.S. deployments and activities elsewhere (e.g., East Asia, the Middle East, Africa), the more stressful security environment argues for a reappraisal of the balance between the requirements of the defense strategy and resources available to support it.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    The Geopolitical Roots and Dynamics of the Ukrainian Crisis

  • Chapter Three

    Implications for the United States

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusions and Implications for the U.S. Army


Beijing turns propaganda focus to online media

May 26, 2015

Hope you’re all typing what the party wants to hear. (File photo/CFP)

  • Yen Ming-chiang and Staff Reporter
  • 2015-05-25
  • 17:18 (GMT+8)

Chinese authorities have turned their propaganda focus to new media this year, seeking to gain more influence in the online community.

The country’s authorities will step up their propaganda efforts, targeting people who have studied overseas, are from wealthy families or have great influence in online communities, President Xi Jinping said at the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee’s Work Conference on United Front in Beijing, which was held May 18-20.

Xi also instructed officials to establish and maintain close contact with representative figures in new media who can play a role in “cleaning up” the internet and promoting the party line.

Earlier this year, some 20 executives from new media and internet companies and prominent online figures for the first time took part in a training course organized by the CPC’s United Front Work Department. These included Baidu vice president Zhu Guang, Youku Tudou vice president Chen Danqing, news app Toutiao’s Zhang Yiming, Xiaomi vice president Chen Tong, and Deng Fei, who has 5.1 million followers on Sina Weibo.

Senior government and CPC officials such as Qi Xuchun, a vice chair of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, were among the lecturers at the training course, which was held May 24 to April 3.

The course covered a wide range of topics such as China’s diplomatic situation, the Silk Road initiatives, free trade zones, big data and management of the online world.

In a report in the Beijing Youth Daily, Deng said the sessions ran from 9 am to 5 pm every day and the participants also met every evening for discussions.

One of the lecturers, Wang Yongqing who is head of the United Front Work Department’s Sixth Bureau, said Chinese authorities plan to tap into the power of new media in a bid to push reforms, reduce poverty, enforce laws and improve discipline in the CPC, according to Chen Danqing.


What people in southeast Ukraine really think of Novorossiya

May 26, 2015

Notice how this article uses facts, figures, references.

Compare and contrast that to Russian media. See a huge difference in professionalism?

Novorossiya is frozen. Last week Oleg Tsarev, leader of the ‘parliament’ that ostensibly united the eastern Ukraine separatist entities, the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk Peoples Republic (LPR), announced the project was now on hold. The reason Tsarev gave was that Novorossiya was incompatible with the Minsk II Accords, the principles agreed by the ‘Normandy Four’ — French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin – in February to end the crisis in eastern Ukraine. His statement and similar ones by others may signal that rebel leaders have been encouraged to consolidate around territory they now control rather than launching a new offensive to grab more. Time will tell. What it does reveal is belated recognition on the part of separatists and perhaps the Kremlin that Novorossiya as a geopolitical project to break Ukraine has fallen well short of its objective.

Tracing the origins of Novorossiya as a contemporary geopolitical re-imagining of Ukraine takes one to the murky world of relations between Kremlin forces and a spectrum of Russian nationalists. In a recent article, Marlene Laruelle outlined the three colors of Russian nationalism behind Novorossiya: a red Novorossiya preoccupied with reasserting Russia as a neo-Soviet great power, a white Novorossiya concerned with reviving and extending reactionary Orthodox ideals, and a brown Novorossiya driven by Russian ultra-nationalist fantasies and practices. What these power connected networks produced was an opportunistic geopolitical gambit on the heels of the Crimean annexation in March 2014 to detach southeast Ukraine from Kiev’s control.

The envisioned territory stretched from Odesa to Donetsk to Kharkiv, uniting eight southeast oblasts into a singular space. Pro-Russian nationalists in these areas launched a series of anti-Maidan protests as occasions for the seizure of local public buildings and proclamation of counter-coup regimes to the perceived EuroMaidan coup in Kiev. These moves, however, garnered uneven public support and manifestly failed in the two strategic locations of Odesa and Kharkiv. Only in the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk did they take hold, and not everywhere there. From the outset, therefore, there was a manifest gap between the aspirational greater Novorossiya and the lesser Novorossiya formed around the DPR and LPR. Putin famously amplified the project in his annual Direct Line television extravaganza in the pivotal month of April 2014 when he reminded everyone that the Novorossiya oblasts “were not part of Ukraine back then” in the tsarist days.

Behind Putin’s remarks were three operating assumptions: that modern southeast Ukraine and historic Novorossiya were equivalent spaces, that this was home to a distinct interest group (“ethnic Russians and Russian speakers”), and that this group was uniformly threatened by Maidan events in Kiev. Putin does not endorse separatism, instead stating that the “key issue is providing guarantees to these people.” Putin’s three assumptions about this region and “these people,” however, proved to be incorrect. Our research reveals what people in most of southeast Ukraine really think of Novorossiya.

Our comparative project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation examines post-Maidan attitudes in Ukraine, as well as in Crimea now annexed to Russia, and in the Russian-supported de facto states of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria. In December 2014, we organized simultaneous public opinion surveys in these regions and surveyed in 6 of the 8 oblasts of southeast Ukraine (hereafter SE6). We judged it impossible to do reliable survey work in war afflicted Donetsk and Luhansk, instead contracting with the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) to administer a randomized face-to-face survey to 2003 persons in Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv. We asked a series of questions about Novorossiya.

The first was whether respondents thought Novorossiya was a myth or historic fact. Implicitly this is a question that sought to get at whether they viewed the newly hyped imaginary as legitimate or not. Over half (52 percent) of the SE6 sample deem it a myth but 24 percent considered it a ‘historic fact’ with a further 22 percent giving a ‘hard to say’ response. (Much higher ratios, about three-quarters, in Crimea and in the Russian-backed de facto republics view it as a historic fact). To determine whether seeing Novorossiya as “historic fact’ might be an endorsement of separatism, we asked directly if the concept could be the basis for separatism of the sub-sample of 970 in the SE6 who saw it in these terms or who gave a ‘hard to say’ answer to the myth-or-fact question. Only 14 percent of this sub-sample agreed with this possibility but importantly 38 percent choose ‘hard to say’ indicating that the question was likely a sensitive one for them. Endorsing or considering the basis for separatism, we should appreciate, is profoundly politically incorrect in most contexts where a legitimate government remains in firm control.

We then posed a question to respondents about the use of the Novorossiya moniker giving them two declarative choices as well as the usual ‘hard to say’ and refuse options: (i) “it is Russian political technology to break up Ukraine” or (ii) “it is the manifestation of the fight of the population of southeast Ukraine for independence.” Only 18 percent in SE6 were willing to choose this latter option (for the graph comparison to Crimea see our earlier post here). Barely over half the population (51 percent) in SE6 viewed Novorossiya as Russian political technology, in effect a geopolitical scam manufactured by Russian power circles. This split opinion is hardly a resounding affirmation of the worldview of Kiev and many Western observers, suggesting the term and its genealogy resonated with some even if they did not say so explicitly.

Since Putin presumed that ethnicity and language was a major cleavage in southeast Ukraine, we examined this belief by sorting our 2003 respondents into four self-declared ethnicity and language categories: Ukrainians speaking only Ukrainian at home (22.6 percent), Ukrainians speaking Russian at home (40.7 percent), Ukrainians speaking both languages (17.4 percent) and those who self-declared as ethnic Russians (11 percent).

Figure 1 reveals how these groups answered the latter Novorossiya question. Little difference is seen within the Ukrainian population regardless of their home language with over half ascribing the term’s appearance to the manipulations of Russian political technologists. However, the ethnic Russian minority (highest in Kharkiv and Odesa) shows a split with only a small minority attributing it to Russian propaganda. The high ‘don’t know’ answer (38 percent) is typical of responses to sensitive questions by minority populations in conflict zones as we have observed elsewhere in our surveys of the former Soviet peoples.

Finally, Figure 2 disaggregates the results by geographic region. What is significant here is the degree to which Odesa and Kharkiv stand out as divided oblasts and cities. Making the not unreasonable assumption that many of those refusing or answering ‘don’t know’ are avoiding revealing politically incorrect sentiments, these results demonstrate that SE Ukraine 6 is not uniform in its rejection of the Novorossiya project. It does have some support, potentially significant in Odesa and Kharkiv where there have been violent destabilizing events in recent months.

While Putin may have been glib in his assumptions about the region, we would be equally glib if we concluded that all in the region have definitely rejected separatism, or that it does not hold attractions for some. Some oblasts in southeast Ukraine are deeply divided, and we should acknowledge that. Indeed, we can identify four distinct zones in contested Ukraine today: annexed Crimea, rebel held Donbas, the divided oblasts of Kharkiv and Odesa, and the rest which are fairly solidly pro-Ukraine. A profound economic and legitimacy crisis is still unfolding in Ukraine and likely to place even greater stress on its institutions and people. Majority sentiment in Crimea is deeply alienated from Ukraine, and supportive of its annexation by Russia irrespective of legality.

Greater Novorossiya may be dead but a lesser Novorossiya lives on in the form of the Russian dependencies DPR and LPR. These appear to be fashioning themselves as de facto states, though they are very distinct from the other post-Soviet de facto states we have studied in depth. While some speculate about a deal ‘giving up’ Novorossiya for acknowledgement of Crimea’s annexation, the grim reality is that there is no easy territorial fix to the multiple crises afflicting Ukraine. They were a long time in the making and they will take a long time to resolve.

Gerard Toal (Gearóid Ó Tuathail) is Director of the Government & International Affairs program at Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region campus in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. John O’Loughlin is College Professor of Distinction and Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Russia faces growing aggression from global arms producers – Putin

May 26, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolsky)

Russia desperately needs the money from arms sales.

Oil prices are down, the ruble is not doing well and the economic growth in Russia is dismal.

Russia is facing increasing and aggressive resistance from other countries in the arms trade, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

He called on Russian manufacturers to deepen military and technical collaboration with the country’s allies and strategic partners.

“Of course, we have to work in a complex situation,” Putin said during a meeting of the Commission for Military and Technical Cooperation on Monday, according to Tass. “We’re confronted ever more frequently with the attempt of direct counteraction and sometimes these attempts go beyond the framework of competitive struggle and are of an openly aggressive nature. And perhaps political instruments are also used as camouflaged means of competitive struggle.”

The president urged Russian firms to consistently implement import substitution programs in the defense sector. He also called for Russia to enter new markets.

“Russia undoubtedly needs to move forward, use higher standards, develop a new generation of armaments and military hardware, and prepare a worthy replacement for high-class specialists and strengthen its positions on global markets,” Putin said.

Russia’s weapons exports amounted to $15.5 billion in 2014, and have remained steadily at that level over the past three years, Putin said. The country holds a “solid second place” among the world’s leading producers in arms deliveries and military equipment, he said.

This is a serious achievement in such a complex and dynamically developing market, the president said. The United States is leading in the global arms market with its 31 percent share, while Russia holds 27 percent, and other market participants are “noticeably behind,” Putin said.

In 2014 Russia signed new contracts worth $14 billion, while the export order portfolio for Russia’s arms industry is stable and currently stands at over $50 billion.

Russia begins massive air force exercise

May 26, 2015

Russia’s military aircraft were out in force to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two

Russia is broke, yet they are staging huge very expensive military exercises.

They’re sending a message. Care to guess the meaning?

Russia’s military forces have begun a large exercise involving around 250 aircraft and 12,000 service personnel, according to its defence ministry.

The ministry described the four-day drill as a “massive surprise inspection”, to check combat readiness.

The tests began on the same day as Nato and some of its partners started an Arctic training exercise.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine and incursions into Western airspace have led to rising tensions with the West.

According to reports on the Russian agencies Interfax and Tass, the inspection of the aviation group and air defence forces in the central military district involves almost 700 weapons and pieces of military hardware.

During the exercise, Russia’s long-range aircraft are due to carry out cruise missile strikes on practice targets in the Komi republic.

The BBC’s Caroline Wyatt, in Moscow, says the current drills are in preparation for a larger exercise known as Center-2015 in the next few months.

Asked about Russia’s assertiveness in a TV interview, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin joked that “tanks don’t need visas”.

The outspoken politician is himself on EU and US blacklists as part of sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year, limiting his travel options.


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