Information operations · Russia · Syria · Ukraine

Russia / Strategy Media Update- 9 April 2017


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Only a short news update since we are seeing some very interesting developments.

Excellent arguments by Amb Haley, SECSTATE and UK SECDEF and FMs – the punchline is as Whitmore put it last week, Russia owns Assad and are implicitly complicit in everything bad he has done and will do.

An excellent digest by Prof Goble of Portnikov’s discussion of the impending meltdown of Russia and Belarus – Portnikov truly does understand how broken both of these  “nation states” are, and exactly why. His assessment that Russia could fragment, and it is impossible to predict the exact structure and alignment of successor states, is on target – there are so many ethnic, cultural, historical, linguistic and economic fault lines than any number of stable and unstable outcomes are possible, once Russia implodes. This reflects the historical realities of most colonial empires – the interests and aspirations of the successor states will evolve over time. Poroshenko’s recent comment on Russia being a  “quasi-state” sums it up nicely – a colonial empire comprising multiple nations and disparate ethnic enclaves, many mutually antagonistic, with Muscovy detested by most individually and collectively.

Four articles on how Russia created an Islamist terrorist problem for itself, and a sharp barb by Kseniya Sobchak on how Putin is wasting security assets and resources on repression rather than using them for counter-terrorism. Sobchak may end up like Politovskaya, Nemtsov and Voronenkov – she detests Vlad and is not afraid to challenge him.

Some gems on fake news and propaganda.

No major developments in Ukraine, two excellent articles on the plight of children traumatized by the invasion.

DPRK and China producing MSM traffic – the DPRK is evidently very excited about Syria. Eight years of an Administration that was reluctant to flex its muscles was read by the DPRK, Iran and Russia as a persistent moral collapse of the US. Evidently, the world does not work the way they imagined it did.

US domestic debate essays on Syria cherry picked for entertainment value – any conspiracy theory will do, as long as an excuse can be found to bash The Donald.


Russia / Russophone Reports


US to accuse Russia of complicity in Syrian chemical attack: report | New York Post

President Trump’s top diplomat will accuse Russia of complicity in Syria’s war crimes during a face-to-face meeting in Moscow this week with Vladimir Putin’s foreign minister, it was reported Sunday. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will demand that Russia yank its support from Bashar al-Assad’s bloody dictatorship over Syria, where hundreds of thousands of innocents have died in a savage 6-year-old civil war, the Sunday Times of London reported. Tillerson will confront Russia with evidence that it knew about — and tried to conceal — <a href=“http://nypost.com/2017/04/05/death-toll-rises-to-72-in-syria-chemical-attack/”>Assad’s sarin strike last week that killed 87 people</a>, the paper said. Tillerson will also charge Russia with breaking its 2013 agreement to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, saying Moscow has “clearly failed in its responsibility” to eliminate the deadly arsenal. In a Saturday phone call with Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that the Syrian military had used chemical weapons in the attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province, on Tuesday. Lavrov said that “an attack on a country whose government fights terrorism only plays into the hands of extremists,” according to a statement from the Russian ministry. The US and Britain strongly signaled Putin that Assad’s actions can no longer be tolerated. The trans-Atlantic allies this weekend were composing a plan to demand that Russia halt military support for Assad and let Syria transition to a new government. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson canceled plans to meet Lavrov in Moscow after conferring with Tillerson and Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday. Sir Michael Fallon, Britain’s defense secretary, said Russia is “by proxy responsible for every civilian death last week” in an essay published Sunday. “Someone who uses barrel bombs and chemicals to his own people cannot be the future leader of Syria,” Fallon wrote. “Assad must go.” President Trump <a href=“http://nypost.com/2017/04/06/trump-syria-airstrike-is-retaliation-for-horrible-chemical-weapons-attack/”>was visibly outraged when he announced the airstrikes </a>Thursday night and condemned Assad for having “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” and adding that “no child of God should ever suffer such horror.” The president was deeply moved by the plea of Kassem Eid, a Syrian now living in Germany who survived a 2013 sarin-gas attack that killed about 1,400 people. Eid, who appeared on CNN on Wednesday, begged Trump to act. “Please, Mr. President, in the name of every woman and child and elder who got killed by the Assad regime, please come and help us,” he said. “Don’t make the same mistake that President Obama did . . . Now you should show the world that those days are over.” Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s ambassador to the US, agreed with Eid, the Sunday Times reported. “[Darroch] said that Trump had inadvertently created a political test for himself by calling Obama weak,” a security source told the paper. “By his own logic he would be weak if he did not act.” King Abdullah of Jordan, who met with Trump at the White House Wednesday, also pressed Trump to act, sources said. On Thursday, Trump<a href=“http://nypost.com/2017/04/07/airstrike-leaves-syrian-airbase-destroyed-at-least-4-soldiers-dead/”> formally authorized military strikes</a> after arriving in Florida on Air Force One for a summit with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, at Mar-a-Lago. “I think it does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line on violating commitments they’ve made and cross the line in the most heinous of ways,” Tillerson said after the US airstrike. Tillerson’s trip to Moscow will follow a meeting Tuesday of G-7 foreign ministers in Italy, where he will work to solidify support for a motion censuring Russia. “President Trump was able to do in two days what President Obama could not do in six years,” said Riad Hijab, a former Syrian prime minister who broke with Assad and joined the opposition. Vice President Mike Pence spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday, assuring him of continued US support in the war on ISIS despite Washington’s strike on the Syrian air base. Pence “affirmed that US policy in the region didn’t change,” an Iraqi statement said. Trump formally notified Congress of the US missile strikes on Syria’s Shayrat airfield in a letter addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate President Pro Tem Orrin Hatch on Saturday. Trump said he was writing to keep Congress informed “consistent with the War Powers Resolution,” a <a href=“http://nypost.com/2017/04/07/congress-divided-on-legality-of-trumps-strike-against-syria/”>1973 measure requiring the president to notify Congress of military action.</a> US intelligence indicated “that Syrian military forces operating from this airfield were responsible for the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians in southern Idlib province, Syria, that occurred on April 4,” Trump wrote. The letter asserted that Trump “acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.” He added that the US “will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests.” Iran, an ally of the Assad regime, called for an impartial investigation into the chemical attack by neutral countries, reflecting claims by Assad and Russia that the chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun were held by rebels and hit by the regime’s missiles. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking in a live broadcast on state television, also warned that the US strikes risked escalating extremism in the region. “This man who claimed that he wanted to fight terrorism gave terrorist organizations a reason to celebrate, the American attack,” he said. With Post Wire Services

Syria: Nikki Haley says regime change is ‘inevitable’ – CNN.com

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has told CNN that removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power is a priority, cementing an extraordinary U-turn in the Trump administration’s stance on the embattled leader.Haley on Syria: No political solution with Assad in power | TheHillU.N. ambassador says removing Assad from power not ‘only priority’ in Syria.

“US strike on Syrian airbase may be only ‘cosmetic’ if not followed by removal of Assad regime,” – Turkish Foreign Minister

08.04.17 17:03 – US strike on Syrian airbase may be only ‘cosmetic’ if not followed by removal of Assad regime, – Turkish Foreign Minister Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saturday that in the absence of strong follow-up efforts, the U.S. missile strike on Syrian regime base could amount to nothing but a “cosmetic move that accomplishes little. View news.

Trump Raises the Stakes for Russia and Iran – The New York Times

The U.S. military strike on Syria delivered a necessary message about chemical weapons. But it will have a wider strategic impact, too.

Trump’s brilliant move turns tables on Putin and the world – Washington Times

Donald Trump has told us he likes to be unpredictable. This art of the deal was on full display Thursday evening in Syria.

Russia to blame for Syria deaths – Sir Michael Fallon – BBC News

The Kremlin was responsible “by proxy” as the “principle backer” of regime, says defence secretary.

Continued bombing by Assad shows limits of single U.S. attack – The Washington Post

President Trump praised the U.S. military for its missile strike, but the broader Syria strategy remains unclear.

U.S. Attack on Syria Cements Kremlin’s Embrace of Assad – The New York Times

The solidarity with Damascus is likely to cause problems for President Vladimir V. Putin and Russia in the long run, political analysts say.

U.S. strikes destroyed Syrian means to deliver chemical weapons: admiral | Reuters

U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard said on Saturday U.S. cruise missile strikes on an air base in Syria had destroyed the means to deliver chemical weapons from that base, and the U.S. military remained ready to carry out further strikes if needed.

Syria beckons beyond Trump’s red line

President Trump is briefed on the result of the Syria military strike by his National Security team, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 6, 2017. Just hours after accusing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad of going “beyond a red line” with a poison gas attack that killed scores of civilians, President

Russia warns of serious consequences from U.S. strike in Syria | Reuters

Russia warned on Friday that U.S. cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base could have “extremely serious” consequences, as President Donald Trump’s first major foray into a foreign conflict opened up a rift between Moscow and Washington.

Syria conflict: Russia must act now to end bloodshed, says Fallon | World news | The Guardian

UK defence secretary says Moscow is directly complicit in suffering, writing that ‘latest war crime happened on their watch’

Russia criticizes UK decision to cancel Johnson visit to Moscow | Reuters

The decision by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to cancel a visit to Moscow later this month shows a lack of understanding of events in Syria, Russia’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.

Malcolm Turnbull tells Russia to pull Bashar al-Assad into line after US missile strikes | Australia news | The Guardian

Marise Payne says Trump administration has asked for no further commitment from Australia after attack on Syrian airbase

Assad Plays America the Fool… Again | The National Interest [2015 Essay]

Assad’s regime is just as bad as ISIS.

US, Russia, Syria, Belarus, And Ukraine Cross Thresholds – To Inform is to Influence

Yesterday the United States launched 59 missiles at the Shayrat Airfield in Syria, a punitive measure and a message, sent as a result of chemical weapon(s) strikes on a village in the Idlib Province in Syria. The result was a turning point for many strategic events which have been set to end, to change, or be…

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Protests in Russia and Belarus ‘Part of General Crisis in the Post-Soviet Space,’ Portnikov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, April 8 – The anti-corruption protests in Russia and the anti-vagrants tax ones in Belarus are “the direct result of the end of the social contract” between the regimes and the population, itself the result of “a general crisis in the post-Soviet space” that has emerged as a result of “the final exhaustion of Soviet economic resources,” Vitaly Portnikov says. Georgia passed through this crisis several years ago, the Ukrainian commentator says, but now along this difficult path is moving “not post-Soviet but post-Maidan Ukraine.” The time has come for Russia and the others because as Dmitry Medvedev there no longer is any money to do otherwise (7days.us/vitalij-portnikov-ten-ganti-ibeli-budushhee-rossijskogo-protesta/). These social contracts vary in details among these states, he says; and in Ukraine there have been as it were “two contracts. One of them, the preservation of statehood and sovereignty, was connected with the interests of the west and center of the country. The other, social, above all was connected with the interests of the east and south.” Yanukovich broke the first contract by stopping the process of European integration, and Ukrainians rose in revolt in 2013-2014. The second, social contract, has not been restored up to now. But those who live in the second paradigm don’t have “the potential for revolt” that the central and western parts of the country do. As a result, “despite all the apparent instability of the current Ukrainian authorities, they are much more stable than are those of ‘stable’ Russia and Belarus,” Portnikov says, because the latter two still are based on a social contract which the government is no longer in a position to fulfill. Now that Russians and Belarusians are beginning to recognize this and are turning to politics, he continues, the authoritarian regimes in Russia and Belarus are responding as one would expect: “with repressions” because “they do not know any other methods” to try to suppress public anger. But over the longer term, “such methods can be effective only if there is sufficient money to fulfill the social contract.” And as of today, neither government has a sufficient amount of funds to do so. Thus, both Russia and Belarus are entering into am ever-worsening downward “spiral” of events that will lead to versions of “’the Arab spring’ and (or) civil war.” In sum, “Russia which now is actively participating in the destabilization of Syria can itself be transformed into an enormous snow-covered Syria but with nuclear weapons.” They are the only thing which “forces the West to do everything it can so that Russia will not collapse or even collapse peacefully” as did the USSR but the West now lacks the money to feed Russia. The future of Belarus is certain to be very different, Portnikov argues. There, Lukashenka’s regime will collapse and the country will move in a European direction either immediately or after a relatively brief Russian occupation, which will “only increased the future gap between these two countries” as the experience of Russia with Ukraine has shown. “But in Russia itself,” it is a mistake to speak about one single trend common to the entire country. There, things will vary region by region, not just among the non-Russian republics but also among what are now de facto Russian ones in which are “functioning completely independent state machines.” The complexity of the country means, Portnikov argues, that it is completely impossible to predict the shape of the collapse, its chronology, the future borders of Russia and “the very model of rule of this country or countries.” But it is obvious already that the breakdown of the social contract in Russia will as it always has lead “to a revolt and the collapse of the state.” It is somewhat perverse that one has to remind Russians and Russian rulers of this in the centenary year of the 1917 revolutions, Portnikov suggests, but clearly “the Russian powers that be like the Bourbons after the restoration have forgotten nothing and learned nothing either.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Historian Provides ‘Ideological Justification for New Great Terror,’ Pavlova Says

Paul Goble Staunton, April 8 – Aleksandr Pyzhikov, a historian at the Presidential Academy of Economics and State Service and someone who has worked closely with the Moscow elite for 20 years, has published what US-based Russian historian Irina Pavlova calls “an ideological justification for a new great terror.” Pyzhikov’s article entitled “A Change of Elites is Inevitable” appeared in Moskovsky komsomolets on Thursday (mk.ru/politics/2017/04/06/smena-elit-v-rossii-neizbezhna.html). Pavlova’s analysis of it appears today on her blog ativpavlova.blogspot.com/2017/04/blog-post_8.html#more). Pavlova argues that Pyzhikov’s article reflects the hysterical tide of anti-Americanism in Moscow and the notion among many in the Kremlin that the Russian leadership must adopt “a program of modernization which in contemporary Russian conditions can be a modernization only of a Stalinist type” and involve massive changes in cadres. The Moscow historian, she continues, seeks to put “in ideological form the attitudes of that part of the Moscow elite which does not simply support the Kremlin’s current course but seeks its logical conclusion” by the carrying out “not only of socio-economic but in the first instance cadres changes.” In his article, Pyzhikov shows himself to be a support of Stalin who he suggests “conducted ‘a patriotic policy’ and asserted ‘national ideological principles’ in opposition to the international policy of the old Leninist guard and who in order to strengthen this course came to recognize the need for removing the former elite.” Pyzhikov “does not simply offer analogies between ‘the old Leninist guard’ and the elite of the 1990s and between today’s ‘patriotic policy’ of President Putin and Stalin’s policy of the middle of the 1930s.” He directly asserts that patriotism must be “the central element of renewal” now just as it was 80 years ago. This renewal, he continues, “must occur in “all spheres: domestic politics and as its extension foreign. A principled position in the international arena, an open break with the liberal tradition, and a reduction of corruption.” It isn’t clear from Pyzhikov’s article, Pavlova says, whether he sees Putin or someone else as the leader to carry all this through. But what is clear, Pavlova says, is that the Moscow historian believes in what he calls “a genuine gospel of change” that involves the idea that “it is shameful to be rich when millions alongside are living in poverty” and that around a leader who will promote that idea “a new elite must be formed.” resentat “Dreaming about a new Great Terror,” Pavlova argues, “Pyzhikov doesn’t note that it is already going on in the form of het arrests of governors and unsuitable siloviki. The cause of his nearsightedness is that he is focused on another stratum of Russian society. In his presentation, ‘the old Leninist guard of today’ is the elite of the 1990s: the systemic liberals.” If I were one of those people who now are in power or near it, the US-based historian says, I would be worried about my future.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: A Breakthrough for Russia’s Truckers Creates Serious Problems for Moscow

Paul Goble Staunton, April 8 – As the Russian long-haul truckers’ strike enters its third week with many routes now paralyzed and supplies of some goods in short supply and with Moscow clearly uncertain how to end a work action given the independence and commitment of the drivers, the truckers have gained an ally in what for many might seem an unexpected place. That has occurred in Tatarstan where a member of the republic parliament introduced a draft bill that would prohibit the Plato system of collecting mileage fees from the truckers on the territory of that Middle Volga republic (.mgorskikh.com/11-economics/2389-v-tatarstanskij-parlament-vnesen-zakonoproekt-o-zaprete-sistemy-platon). Moscow will undoubtedly deploy the many resources it has at its command to prevent the adoption the measure lest it cost one of Vladimir Putin’s allies of a major source of funding and even more lest it become, as actions in Tatarstan often have in the past, a bellwether for other republics not only in the Middle Volga but in the North Caucasus and elsewhere. If indeed Tatarstan were to adopt this measure and even more if other non-Russian republics and some predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts and krays were to follow – a step that would be popular in many of them where the truckers’ movement is strong and popular – that would undermine Putin’s much-ballyhooed common legal space. Even more, it could trigger broader political challenges to the center, with the long-haul truckers’ strike possibly even playing the role that the strikes of railway workers played a century ago in Russia and that general strikes have played in Eastern Europe and the West more generally. The Kremlin thus has good reasons to be worried as the fall-out from the truckers’ action begins to affect not only the market baskets of ordinary Russians but also the power of the regime itself. At the very least, these risks raise the stakes of the strike and set the stage for a possible showdown in the coming week.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Patriarchate Quietly Stripping New Martyrs of Sainthood to Please the FSB, Kurayev Says

Paul Goble Staunton, April 8 – The reason the Moscow Patriarchate is quietly stripping the new martyrs of Soviet times of their sainthood is not to correct errors, independent Deacon Andrey Kurayev says, but rather to curry favor with the FSB and other security organs and to show the church’s willingness to serve their interests rather than those of God. Almost five years ago, Kurayev argued that the on again-off-again process of stripping of sainthood many of those who had died for their faith was entirely natural given the problems of gathering evidence of their fate and the almost inevitable fact that some declared saints really did not deserve that status (diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/404290.html). But now, he says, he has reached a different conclusion, one that casts the church leadership in the worst possible light. Instead of breaking with its subordination to the organs of the Soviet past, it is doing everything it can not to offend their successors. Doing away with many of the new martyrs is a step in that direction (diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/1546049.html). Kurayev says he was driven to change his own views by an article last week written by Archpriest Dmitry Sazonov on the authoritative Patriarchate portal, Bogoslav (bogoslov.ru/text/5297810.html). Sazonov’s words show that more is behind the stripping of sainthood from the new martyrs than just concerns about evidence. He makes clear, Kurayev says, that for the church today, there is a new “principle” at work. Instead of accepting the archival testimony of someone that shows he suffered and even died for the faith, now, “it is impermissible to consider a saint anyone whom the (Soviet) powers identified as its enemies.” And so, regardless of what a priest or believer may have suffered because of his beliefs, if there is any evidence that he confessed to being against a state policy like collectivization, that means he was an enemy of the state and does not deserve canonization. Eliminating from the ranks of saints many of the new martyrs thus become easy and justified as a defense of the state. More than most other branches of Christianity, Russian Orthodoxy has a long history of canonizing those who died for their faith even for political reasons. And it was not surprising but very welcome in the 1990s when the Orthodox Church canonized many who had suffered under Soviet atheism. Indeed, many viewed that as part of a necessary healing process. But now the corporate self-regard of the KGB’s successors is such that this healing process apparently is to be stopped cold and even reversed, and the Moscow Patriarch under Kirill is going along in order to demonstrate its loyalty to the state and the institutions that not long along worked so hard to destroy religion as such.

“They committed a mass murder in your home”: Ksenia Sobchak wrote a video message to Vladimir Putin

TV presenter Ksenia Sobchak appealed to Vladimir Putin with an open video message, in which she accused the Russian president and the special services reporting to him of insufficient attention to the terrorist threat. According to Sobchak, the suicide bomber’s action in the St. Petersburg metro was the result of the fact that Russia’s law enforcement system was reoriented not to identify and eliminate the terrorist threat, to political repression. In the video, Ksenia Sobchak said that the April 3 incident almost turned into a tragedy for her family as well. Mom’s sister literally passed 10 minutes before the station “Technological”. “It was only these ten minutes that separated my family personally from a great human tragedy. Why did this happen in your city, where you literally personally know all the top FSB officers? “The TV presenter asked. She recalled that on the day of the terrorist attack, President Putin was in his hometown, so the explosion occurred literally under the nose of the Russian head of state. At the same time, Sobchak shared a recent conversation with her colleague Pavel Lobkov that St. Petersburg probably did not accidentally avoid terrorist attacks so far. “Because to encroach on Peter is to encroach on the entire imperial history of a great power and on your multi-year presidency. They committed a mass murder in your home, “continued the TV address to the president. According to her, a few days before, the whole country had seen how armed Russian guardsmen who had lined up in the column “saved the city from schoolchildren”. Sobchak also recalled how in a few days they came with demonstrative searches into the Sestroretsk school and put them face to face, allegedly in search of drugs from school children. “Are you sure this is the correct distribution of forces? Are you sure that the anti-terrorism department, which in St. Petersburg has not allowed any bastards to stick out for decades, and now is almost completely destroyed and left without agents, is the correct leadership of the state security? – asked questions to Vladimir Putin Ksenia Sobchak. “I know that you always pay close attention to any street activities, but when such a number of trained fighters divide the business roofs and catch them in a hundred days in social networks, have you distracted them from something more important?”

Putin provoking rather than preventing Islamist terrorism in Russia, Portnikov says | EUROMAIDAN PRESSEuromaidan Press |

The 1999 apartment bombings led to actions by Vladimir Putin that contributed to the stabilization of Russia, but the metro bombing in St. Petersburg and the Kremlin leader’s reaction to it are likely to have exactly the opposite effect, Vitaly Portnikov says, provoking rather than preventing a new wave of domestic Islamist terrorism. The reason, the Ukrainian commentator says, is that what has just happened was entirely “predictable” because “when a country with a multi-million Muslim population is drawn into a bloody war in the Middle East … could there be any doubt that sooner or later, the citizens of this country would become victims of terror?” Pictures on Moscow television of the Russian bombing of Muslims in Aleppo, Portnikov continues, “are worth hundreds of propagandistic statements. And if one wants to name the chief recruiter for ISIS, then I will give his name: This is Vladimir Putin.” And now he doesn’t know what to do.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Central Asian Islamist Terrorism has Roots in Soviet Era Practices

Paul Goble Staunton, April 8 – The identification of those who carried out the terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg, Rostov and now Stockholm as Central Asians has led numerous commentators to speculate on what it is about their situation that has led them to accept Islamist ideas and then to engage in terrorist violence. For a sample, see ru.sputnik.kg/Kyrgyzstan/20170406/1032749627/pochemu-kyrgyzstan-chasto-figuriruet-v-teraktah.html, meduza.io/news/2017/04/08/aftonbladet-po-delu-o-terakte-v-stokgolme-zaderzhali-grazhdanina-uzbekistanaand znak.com/2017-04-08/v_moskve_na_treh_stanciyah_metro_poymali_lyudey_so_sledami_vzryvchatki_na_rukah. Not surprisingly, most of them identify as proximate causes the current situation in Central Asian countries, such as their rapidly growing and urbanizing populations which have broken with their traditional ties and the inability of the governments to promote economic development and thus keep the number of 18-year-old unemployed males at a minimum. Those factors are undoubtedly important, but they fail to explain why so many Central Asians in particular are turning to radical Islam and terrorism. The real answer to that lies not in the current situation, however much it may contribute to radicalization, but in the Soviet past when the communists worked to destroy Islam along with all other religions. More than 98 percent of all mullahs were killed or sent to the camps, an even higher percentage of mosques were closed and handed over to the secular authorities, and those that remained open offered a denatured religion, one that promoted loyalty to the state rather than adherence to religious values. As a result, there emerged in Central Asia a phenomenon that occurred elsewhere in the USSR but was especially widespread in that region. That is the so-called “ethnic Muslims,” people who identified as Muslims because that was part of their national tradition but had little or no direct knowledge of the faith. Sometimes that led to almost comic outcomes: Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev told me and others that he was a good Muslim and as such, he prayed three times a day. As almost everyone knows, a good Muslim prays five times a day. As a former CPSU member and major general in the Soviet air force, he simply hadn’t had the chance to learn that. The Soviet authorities viewed the phenomenon of ethnic Muslims as a way station on the path to the complete atheization of society and thus welcomed it. But when Soviet power fell, such people suddenly and the opportunity to learn something of their faith, and they did so with enthusiasm. Not surprisingly, both because of their own lack of knowledge about Islam and because of the ways they and others adopted to promote the rebirth of Islam, they did not get the kind of Islam that Russian scholars refer to as “traditional Islam,” that is one confined to the mosque and loyal to the state. They received an injection of something else. First, during perestroika and especially after 1991, Central Asians turned first and foremost to those who had kept the faith alive there under Soviet repression, the leaders of underground mosques who by their very nature were political and against any regime that opposed Islam. Then, they went on the haj in large numbers and studied in medrassahs abroad, often on scholarships supplied not be the more moderate of Muslims abroad but by the radicals; and they were radicalized as a result. The numbers of such Central Asians who gained such experiences are now in the thousands, especially in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. And finally, they were subject to the influence of foreign Muslim missionaries who came to Central Asia to promote their version of Islam, typically a more radical one than that of most Muslims either elsewhere around the world or in Central Asia. Hundreds of such people arrived and remain to this day. Had the Muslims of Central Asian not been subject to Soviet anti-religious efforts, they would have been largely immunized to such influences; but because that was their fate, they were radicalized – and out of that have arisen the terrorists now attacking Russian and European cities. Many in the West have difficulty understanding this simple fact: those who know little or nothing about their faith are far more likely to be radicalized than those who have a deep knowledge and appreciation of it. And as a result, these outsiders see any Muslim education effort as dangerous even though it often is exactly the opposite. Tragically, people in St. Petersburg, Rostov and other places are now paying a horrific price for what the Soviet system created. That is not something Vladimir Putin or other admirers of the USSR are likely to admit, but it is the beginning of wisdom as far as understanding why Central Asians are now so numerous in the ranks of Islamist terrorists.

Suspect in Russia metro bombing traveled to Turkey, say co-workers | Reuters

The man Russian police believe was the suicide bomber who killed 14 people in a blast on the St Petersburg metro this week developed an interest in Islam and soon after traveled to Turkey, two people who know him told Reuters.

Why America Should Fear Russia’s Crazy Rocket Artillery | The National Interest Blog

As if things could not get bad enough between Moscow and Washington.

MINA Breaking News – Lavrov suggests NATO collusion in creating the opioid crisis

Internet News Agency with daily news from Macedonia, the Balkans and Around the world. Information on Health, Economy, Politics, Environment, Sports.

First Draft releases guide to savvy reporting on fake news – To Inform is to Influence

By Nausicaa Renner, CJR APRIL 7, 2017 First Draft News’s Field Guide to Fake News IF THERE’S ONE—and only one—thing we can say definitively about fake news, it’s that it inspired some great reporting, of a kind that has never before been prominent in the public sphere. Exhibit A is Craig Silverman’s coverage at BuzzFeed,…

A Field Guide to Fake News

A Field Guide to Fake News will explore the use of digital methods to trace the production, circulation and reception of fake news online. It is a project of the Public Data Lab with support from First Draft.

How the alt-right brought #SyriaHoax to America – To Inform is to Influence

Tracing the “false flag” claim back to a pro-Assad website Diagram of how the “false flag” claim spread. US President Donald Trump’s decision to launch strikes against Syria in the wake of a major chemical weapons attack provoked outrage from the far-right groups who were his most aggressive supporters. As rumors of the impending strikes broke,…


Ukraine Reports


Director of Gorshenin Institute’s intl programs: visa-free regime is path to mental integration into Europe – LB.ua news portal

Director of Gorshenin Institute’s intl programs: visa-free regime is path to mental integration into Europe. Indirectly, it will improve the quality of life in Ukraine. Main – LB.ua news portal. Latest from Ukraine and the world today

Moldova Picks Ukraine Over Russia In New Energy Deal | OilPrice.com

A new energy contract between Moldova’s Energocom and Ukraine’s DTEK Trading is significant in ways that go far beyond market economics

Ukraine’s Corrupt Elites Make a Mockery of Western Support

Democracy is at risk from persistent assaults upon freedoms won by the Maidan protests.

Ukraine, France boast centuries of close ties | KyivPost

Although France and Ukraine are 1,000 kilometers apart, they have connections that stretch far back into history. The lives of many famous people from Ukraine and France have been intertwined, enriching cultural and political relations between the countries. First relations Historians place the first Ukrainian-French relations back in the mid-11th century, when Anne of Kyiv, the daughter of Kyivan Rus King Yaroslav the Wise, married French King Henry I in 1051. After Henry’s death in 1060, Anne became regent of France until her son, Philip I, came of age and ascended to the French throne.

NATO – News: Deputy Secretary General: Ukraine is a valued NATO partner, 07-Apr.-2017

NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller reaffirmed the Alliance’s strong support for Ukraine in a speech on Thursday (6 April 2017). Speaking at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, she said a recent meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission underscored the Alliance’s ongoing and steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Deputy Secretary General said Ukraine is a valued NATO partner and that, “NATO does not, and will not, accept Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. And we condemn Russia’s ongoing destabilization in eastern Ukraine.”

Four servicemen wounded as militants shelled Ukrainian positions 59 times, – ATO Staff

09.04.17 11:31 – Four servicemen wounded as militants shelled Ukrainian positions 59 times, – ATO Staff The Prymorske area remains a center of the military confrontation. View news.

UN: Thousands of Children Traumatized by War in Ukraine

Children in eastern Ukraine live in a state of constant fear and uncertainty because of sporadic shelling, unpredictable fighting and violent deaths of loved ones

Tiny survivor of Kramatorsk bombing tries to recover -Euromaidan Press |

Two years ago, Klym Klymenko miraculously survived the bombardment of Kramatorsk by Russian separatist forces. His mother died while shielding her three-year-old son with her body. Klym was critically injured. In many respects, his story is typical of the tragedies — and occasional triumphs — experienced by the many victims of the Donbas war. On February 10, 2015, Russian forces bombed Kramatorsk, a town in the Donetsk Oblast, some 50 km from the front line. They launched Smerch and Tornado missiles at Ukraine’s military headquarters near Kramatorsk, as well as a large residential area in the city. As a result, 17 civilians were killed and 60 were seriously wounded. When the attack began, Oleksandra Klymenko ran to pick up her son from the nursery school. On the way home, they came under fire. The mother covered the little boy with her body but died on the spot. Klym survived but was badly injured. A local woman at the scene took him to the local hospital, realizing that if they waited for an ambulance he would not survive.


Foreign Policy Reports


Navy strike group moving toward Korean peninsula: report | TheHill

“We feel the increased presence is necessary,” official says.

Syria strike sends powerful message to North Korea | Fox News

Military exercises involving American forces and their South Korean counterparts are getting ready for any provocation from North Korea. Fox News takes an inside look.

USS Carl Vinson headed toward Korean Peninsula – CNNPolitics.com

A US aircraft carrier-led strike group is headed toward the Western Pacific Ocean near the Korean Peninsula, a US defense official confirmed to CNN. Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, directed the USS Carl Vinson strike group to sail north to the Western Pacific after departing Singapore on Saturday, Pacific Command announced.

North Korea says US air strikes on Syria vindicates decision to develop nuclear weapons – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

North Korea says US missile strikes against a Syrian airfield are an unforgivable act of aggression that show its decision to develop nuclear weapons was the right choice.

Getting Rid of North Korea’s Dictator, With China’s Help – The New York Times

Could President Trump be hoping to enlist Beijing in ousting Kim Jong-un?

North Korea’s Missile Test, a 9-Minute Hop, Leaves Analysts Puzzled – The New York Times

Despite varying theories about the type of weapon that the North had fired, none explained the short distance that the missile had traveled.

China’s Role in the Korean Peninsula – Bloomberg

The growing North Korean nuclear threat has the world looking for a way to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Kent Boydston, research analyst with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, discusses China’s role on Bloomberg North. (Source: Bloomberg)

White House: U.S., China will seek to ‘peacefully resolve’ North Korean nuclear threat – POLITICO

They say Xi and Trump &quot;reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.&quot;

Chinese state media cheer Xi-Trump meeting, say confrontation not inevitable

Chinese state media on Saturday cheered the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

The Soviet Union fought the Cold War in Nicaragua. Now Putin’s Russia is back. – The Washington Post

Russia is increasing its military and economic aid, and some Americans are worried.


US Domestic Policy Reports


MSNBC host’s conspiracy theory: What if Putin planned the Syrian chemical attack to help Trump? – The Washington Post

A fringe theory went mainstream on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, “The Last Word.”

Donald Trump, Syria and the Death of ‘America First’

Trump’s campaign slogan had undeniable political appeal. But as the U.S. strike in Syria shows, it couldn’t survive the realities of the Oval Office.

Donald Trump, exceptionalist | Fox News

What does the president’s decision about the Syria airstrike show about leadership?

Trump Was Always Going to Disappoint His Isolationist Supporters – The Atlantic

The 45th president’s worldview was eventually going to lead him into military conflict.

The Scariest Part About the Syria Attacks Is What Donald Trump Will Learn from Them | GQ

A dangerous feedback loop has been established.

Syria. A Twilight Zone Thought Experiment. | The Huffington Post

Let me be Rod Serling for a moment. Let’s just play with an idea. Imagine, if you will, a foreign leader intent on world domination. Let’s call him…

 

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