Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
An unusually busy last week of 2017 for Russia related reports:
- Shmulyevich argues Russia’s play is to exploit / encourage a US war with the DPRK to distract and tie down the US, so Russia can play elsewhere, like Ukraine or Kazakhstan (alleged ethnic Russian Northern Kazakhstan is actually mainly ethnic Ukrainian, so if Putin can’t invade Ukraine proper, he could have an ersatz invasion of the Ukrainian parts of Kazakhstan…NB attached 1941 map);
- Yakovenko makes good observations on Putin’s campaign of chaos and its incompatibility with the West, while Skobov flatly observes Russia’s system is inherently incompatible with the West’s – latest meeting between SECSTATE and Lavrov suggests this might be finally understood;
- The meltdown of Russia’s space industry producing media traffic;
- Pastukov on the internal social / political pressure cooker Putin is creating and its potential to explode;
- Whitmore on the election (notably Putin’s nemesis Navalniy is one half Ukrainian by descent, seems he cannot escape them);
- Putin launches LNG price war against US shale gas;
- Talent exodus from Russia, foreign investor exodus from Russia, Putin can thus purge unwanted thinkers and foreign influences;
- A significant series of articles on Russia’s descent into the abyss – ethnic, cultural, religious, regional, social breakdowns and repression;
In Moldova: Dodon again sidelined by the Constitutional Court.
- Washtimes OpEd on Ukraine;
- Girkin dumps on Surkov, whom he calls by his Chechen name Aslanbek Andarbekovich [Dudayev];
- Ukraine now broadcasting 13 TV channels into Donbass;
- Russian pullout from JCCC due to Ukrainian biometric border control exposing GRU/FSB/SVR personnel;
- LtGen Romanenko (retd) on the ease with which the new Kerch bridge could be dropped by air, TBM or GLCM strikes, and the non-viability of Crimea as a military FOB in wartime (not understood by too many Western “strategists” – NovoRossiysk is infinitely better);
- Another S-400 Air Defence Missile Division (AKA SQN/battery) to deploy to Crimea;
- Adm Voronchenko on the invasion of Crimea, and how military planning to block the effort was politically stalled;
- Many reports on yesterday’s POW/EPW swap – Russian no-shows produce Western MSM traffic;
- Excellent essay by Prof Blank on Russia’s use of ethnic and social divisions in the MidEast to play for influence, much the same game played inside Russia and former Soviet Republics and WarPac nations;
- Russians gloating over Syrian ‘Victory’ Over U.S. and West;
- Chinese ships sprung transferring POL to DPRK ships at sea;
- Russia grandstands on negotiations;
- Russia produces inane claims that Aegis Ashore batteries in Japan would be used to shoot TLAMs in Russia, despite range being almost useless for key targets inside Russia, and as if the JMSDF did not have any Mk.41 VLS equipped surface combatants that could be used to shoot TLAMs to a more useful depth inside Russia (this is too dumb to be an accident);
- Some bizarre claims about BPI using AAMs;
- DPRK nuclear scientist suicides after failed attempt to defect;
- Eight reports on Russian meddling;
- Serbians fighting for Russia in Donbass;
Strategy / History / Capability:
- Pantsir ME detailed;
- Lots of AI essays;
Fourteen articles on cyber/IO/IW.
US domestic debate remains fractious, Putin vs. Sen McCain in the NSS, more on the injudicious Iran play.
NATO / EU / Russia Reports
Paul Goble Staunton, December 27 – The best explanation for Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria has been the improvement of the capabilities of the Russian armed forces, something he has succeeded in doing with each conflict he has dispatched them to, Israeli analyst Avraam Shmulyevich says. In an interview with the Russian Monitor portal, he says that one of his well-connected friends in Moscow has told him that “we are preparing for war, but it is not yet clear with whom” (rusmonitor.com/avraam-shmulevich-rossiya-gotovitsya-vvyazatsya-v-bolshuyu-vojjnu-no-poka-ne-znaet-s-kem.html). It is entirely possible, Shmulyevich says, that Putin will send in Russian forces into conflicts where Moscow has no particular interest in the outcome in order to continue improve the skills of Russian troops; and that makes it extremely difficult to say where he will move or when. It is completely clear that “Russia is preparing for war.” It has created a war machine far above its economic capabilities, and therefore it will use it in order to solve its domestic failures to produce in any other sector. If it fails to go to war, the Putin regime not only will lose face but possibly power as well. Some say Putin will send forces into Libya, and that is possible, he continues; but doing so would represent a far more direct challenge to the West than his intervention in Syria because Libya is more important to Europe and the US than Syria was and remains. And Russia is not in a position to fight the West on Libyan soil: it is too far away for Russia to be able to effectively. What one must understand, Shmulyevich says, is that Putin is “absolutely sincere” when he talks about the collapse of the USSR as “the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century” and something he really wants to reverse by restoring the Russian Empire and its role as an international power. And because the Kremlin leader cannot offer any positive model that would attract the former components of this entity to join with Russia, the Israeli analyst continues, he will use military means to achieve it, either directly or by forcing other countries to defer to his rapid seizure of this or that part of the empire. It remains an open question whether Putin fully understands what he is doing or what his military is capable of; but it is very clearly the case that he sees the use of military force as a means of achieving his goals and will use it to do so, Shmulyevich argues. And he suggests that the three most probable scenarios from which Putin will chose are the following: First, a full-scale war with Ukraine, one in which Russia will use such a level of force that even those in the West who support Kyiv now will pull back lest doing more get them involved in a war with Russia. Such a move will be all the easier if the US is tied down in a conflict with North Korea and hopes to keep Russia on its side. Second, although this may seem “fantastic,” Putin may use military force against North Korea as “a subcontractor to the US.” That would force the US to take Russia’s interests into consideration, including on Ukraine and other issues. Given the Kremlin’s propaganda means, it could turn the country “not in 24 hours but in 24 minutes” in this new direction. Or third, Putin could move militarily into northern Kazakhstan, a still predominantly ethnic Russian area that the Kremlin leader and many Russians believe was illegitimately taken from them in the same way Crimea was. Such a move would strengthen Russia’s hand in dealing with China as well as expanding the empire. The most probable trigger of a Russian military move would be “a serious confrontation between the US and Korea,” Shmulyevich says, because if that conflict takes off, America will find its hands tied and it will be most interested in “purchasing the loyalty of Russia,” most probably by getting Washington to show understanding of Moscow’s moves elsewhere.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 26 – Many countries lag behind the leaders but nonetheless are able to catch up and even surpass them by acknowledging where they are and by playing by the rules, Aleksandr Yakovenko says. But Vladimir Putin refuses to acknowledge Russia’s backwardness and weakness, and he refuses to play by the rules. Instead, the Kremlin leader insists that Russia has nothing to learn from others but instead is “a teacher” for them and refuses to play by the rules, the Russia commentator says. And that combination, one based on saving himself by spreading chaos, is doomed to fail and perhaps in an unexpectedly rapid fashion (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A41F23136474). China and Singapore show what countries can achieve when they admit they are behind and have much to learn from others and play by the rules. But “Putin’s Russia conducts itself in a principally different way, pretending to be a counterweight to the West and in fact to the role of a world leader.” “Not having the resources for this and also lacking any chance to achieve what it wants in an honest way, Putin” first violates the rules of the game and then begins to threaten that he will do even more unless others change the rules so that he and his country can assume the roles he thinks are rightfully theirs. Why this will work only so long can be seen in what has happened in the world of international sports, where Putin organized a state system of doping in order to win medals and make claims and where once this was exposed Russia is now having to try to find a way back into competitions that are governed by rules that expressly prohibit what he has done. “For long years,” Yakovenko continues, “Putin’s Russia has spread chaos through world sports, buying up international sports officials retail and sports federations wholesale and by setting up an unprecedented state system of doping.” It achieved Putin’s goals for a time, but now that effort has collapsed and the sports world is almost completely united against him. Considering the diversity and complexity of the present-day world,” he says, “playing on the contradictions between the players, Putin still for a certain time may be able to support his regime by increasing chaos in the world.” But as what has happened in the sports world shows, he won’t be able to keep it up forever. And because that is so, Yakovenko concludes, “the Putin stability which is based on the generation of chaos can end suddenly and much earlier than the end of the next presidential term,” something those who think that they are avoiding by voting for the Kremlin incumbent who promises stability above everything else should reflect upon.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 26 – During the Cold War, Moscow and the West recognized that they were two distinct systems that in principle couldn’t make any permanent compromise. But after the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, many in both places acted on the assumption that they were again one system and that compromise between them was the norm. That assumption, Aleksandr Skobov says, was and is wrong. The Russian Federation of Vladimir Putin and Western liberal democratic capitalist states represent two distinct systems just as communism and capitalism did in the past and that no permanent compromise between them is possible (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A4128AFDC15E). Despite what Kremlin propagandists claim, the Russian commentator says, conflicts in the world today are not the result of the struggle of nations or states for resources, as geopolitics is typically defined, but rather between two very different ways in which elites gain resources for themselves “In the liberal capitalist system, elites must act within socially acceptable limits.” They are subject to control by society and have to respond to it, and “the individual has a high level of legal and social defense and independence from both the society and the state,” Skobov continues. In the illiberal world of which Russia is a prime example, elites gain access to resources by enslaving the population, act without regard to legal limits, and often behave in openly criminal and bandit-style ways. That is why, he says, many now call the Putin system “a kleptocracy.” “Conflicts between these two social systems bear an irreconcilable(antagonistic) and irremovable character. Each of the systems cannot by strive to the complete liquidation of the alternative system because the very existence of each of them represents a threat to the survival of the other.” “The elites of the authoritarian world are afraid of the infectiousness of the example of the liberal West for their societies and therefore strive to spread to the West the way that are characteristic for them of acquiring wealth.” That is why the Putin regime is spreading corruption in the West, something it would be doing even if Ukraine had never happened. “Sooner or later,” Skobov says, these actions “will force Western society as a whole to resolve the problem of the expansion of illiberal social forms in a radical way by removing these forms from history as a dangerous infection.” Western nations did that with communism; they now have another existential challenge that they must face the same way. And that means that “’the Second Cold War’ will only grow and can end only with the complete destruction of one of the systems.” How hard the ending will be, one that may range from a parallel to the demise of the USSR to the destruction of Nazi Germany, is difficult to predict. But that the current conflict is more than about geopolitics is already clear.
The U.S. and Russia aired disagreements this week over key world conflict zones, framing differences that spell increasing uncertainties for the start of 2018 in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
I hope journalists across the nation and every member of Congress will read the Dec. 26 front-page article “Kremlin’s trolls beset Web as U.S. dithered” and Michael Morell and Mike Rogers’s Dec. 2…
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US and Russia have a “poor relationship,” a declaration made in a year-end New York Times op-ed he wrote assessing the State Department during his 2017 tenure.
U.S. urges Russia to “bring to an end” conflict in Donbas. View news feed in news about politics for 29 December from UNIAN Information Agency
NATO chief predicts increased dialogue with Russia in 2018 – media. View news feed in news about politics for 29 December from UNIAN Information Agency
Russia plans to limit U.S. military reconnaissance flights over Russian territory under the Open Skies Treaty starting January 1 in response to limits on Russian flights over the United States rece…
Paul Goble Staunton, December 26 – A detailed survey of Russian naval operations in support of Russian ground operations in Syria concludes that the Russian fleet can deal with small local wars but lacks the equipment, weapons, and in particular pilots needed for any larger operation, shortcomings that Konstantin Sivkov says were obvious to other countries as well. Writing in the authoritative Voenno-Promyshlenny kuryer, the retired captain who often serves as a commentator on military and especially naval affairs says that the shortage of pilots seriously limited the use of Russia’s only aircraft carrier and meant that its two losses were more serious than they should have been (lenta.ru/news/2017/12/26/navy/). The Russian fleet showed that it has “the most contemporary arms” and “a quite high level of training” that are capable of “fulfilling tasks in limited wars and armed conflicts,” but its shortage of weapons and personnel were serious even in the Syrian case and were “obvious not only for Russian but also for foreign military specialists.” Russia simply has too small a fleet for operations far from shore, too few personnel and too few weapons, and an aging collection of ships which is not being replaced in a timely fashion, the commentator says. Indeed, the fact that the Kuznetsov had to be on station so long highlights all these problems. The fleet’s rate of fire and air operations were far too low, and “that shows that Russia does not have sufficient reserves” even of such critical weapons as cruise missiles. Instead, when it comes to the most advanced weapons in general, the Russian fleet has far too few to sustain even a limited conflict for any length of time. “Our fleet demonstrated,” Sivkov concludes, “that it is capable of fulfilling the tasks laid on it completely but up to now only in extremely limited local wars and armed conflicts.” Any larger conflicts at the present time are beyond its capacity.
Russia / Russophone Reports
Russia’s latest space launch failures have prompted authorities to take a closer look into the nation’s struggling space industry, the Kremlin said Thursday.
Rocket programmed with coordinates of wrong launch pad; deputy PM says human error to blame
The Russian space agency says it has regained communications with an Angolan telecommunications satellite launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
In November, Russia lost contact with a 6,062-pound, $45 million satellite. Turns out, that happened because the Meteor-M weather satellite was programmed with the wrong coordinates.
Deputy prime minister admits programmers gave the $45m device coordinates for Baikonur rather than Vostochny cosmodrome
Paul Goble Staunton, December 26 –The tragedy of Putin in his next presidential term is that Russia desperately needs to change in one direction or another even though the only thing the current Kremlin leader wants is for everything to remain just as it is now, Vladimir Pastukhov says; and that is leading to a revolutionary situation that could transform Russia more than any in the past. In an essay on the Republic portal, the St. Antony’s College historian argues that today, Putin’s regime is “in a zone of maximum political comfort.” That is, “not one of the challenges” it faces domestically or internationally “is a mortal threat to its existence because he has “successfully put down … the three key elements of a revolutionary situation – economic dissatisfaction, social activity, and an institutional crisis” (republic.ru/posts/88684). But as Yury Pivovarov pointed out in his work on the February 1917 revolution, “in the formation of a revolutionary situation what is important is not so much the objective indicators of a crisis as it subjective understanding.” Sometimes a shallow crisis can overturn things; and sometimes a deeper one won’t. “The memory of the 1990s has made the current generation of Russians extraordinarily tolerant,” Pastukhov continues. They will put up with a lot as did the post-World War II one which was acceptant of its lot as long as there is no war. And they still give Putin credit for the fat years of the first decade of this century. But “one mustn’t ignore the fact that at the end of Putin’s fourth term, the political activity of the generations who experienced the 1990s has declined and in its place have come those for whom the 1990s are just as much a legend as is the USSR.” They are responding differently as the protests of 2011-2012 showed. Putin was able to retain control over this challenge by his “colonial” wars in Ukraine and Syria and the “post-communist neo-imperialist project” they reflect. And he did so by recognizing that “he doesn’t need control over the entire society but that it is sufficient to run the key processes” in the media and elsewhere. In many ways, the system he put in place resembled the old communist one, the historian says; “but if in communist times behind the façade of the decorative soviet system the party vertical with its ideological code ruled everything, in Putin’s Russia behind its façade of pseudo-democracy, all is run … by understandings drawn from the criminal world.” This suits Putin just fine and he would continue it forever if he could. His problem is that it is “practically impossible” for him to do so. But so far, he has been unwilling to make a choice between the two most obvious ways forward: a mobilizational and militarist society at odds with the world and a society committed to democratic reforms and good relations with the West. Moscow today lacks the resources for the former, and so Putin has lost his ability to use the patriotic levers he did earlier. And he can move in the other direction only by retreating and by competing with the opposition on the issues of corruption. If he does that, however, he will be “cutting off the limb on which he is sitting.” Thus, Putin’s tragedy: “It is necessary to change something but one must not change anything because the existing system is ideal” from his perspective. And that means, Pastukhov says, that “in the next few years, he will be forced to exit from “his political paradise” and change or have change forced upon him. Putin has given certain indications that he understands the need for genuine economic reform and modernization. Indeed, one can say that today “there is no argument abot whether to modernize Rusisa or not but rather about how and when to modernize it,” by a turn toward modernization by force or toward “’modernization with a human face.’” This argument is personalized at least symbolically between the positions of Igor Sechin who is quite prepared for change in the direction of the former and Kseniya Sobchak who wants change in the opposite direction. But for Putin, neither is persuasive because each may not leave him with a place in the political Olympus. However, increasingly the choice is not jus this to make. There are forces within the regime, within Russian society, and internationally that are combining to force him to move whether he wants to or not and quite possibly in directions that will sweep his system if not him personally from the scene. Up to now, Pastukhov argues, “Putin has successfully managed conflicts in his entourage; ow, these conflicts will run him. He is losing operational space for political maneuver and will be forced to move iin tht direction which will be defined by the outcomes of struggles in the apparat.” A major reason for this change is that there are now forces outside his control that some within the apparatus may be ready to appeal to. Those inside up until the present have sought to gain influence over him at the expense of their rivals, but now they may seek power by appealing beyond the apparatus to emerging revolutionary forces like Aleksey Navalny. “Navalny’s voice is the voice of awakening chaos,” the historian says, noting that “in the Kremlin, they understand that this is a threat but do not understand well what to do with it. An antidote against Navalny doesn’t exist because he is a projection of the destructive activity of the authorities on society.” He is in short, “the shadow cast by Putin on Russian history.” “In the 20th century, Russia experienced four revolutions: now, it faces a fifth. A fifth revolution is worse than a fifth column because someone can manage the fifth column but no one can do that with a revolution,” Pastukhov says. “No one has done more for this moment to arise than Valdimir Putin.” “Russia is entering a transitional era under the sign of counter-revolution and archaic values but it will come out of it under the sign of revolution and modernization.” The point of no return will occur when the views of the elites and populations change and when the revolution rather than Putin becomes the chief actor in the country. For a time, “everything will look as it does now: Putin will be in the Kremliln, his friends will be around him in ministries and state corporations, the FSB, the police and the courts will work completely under control.” But “the main thing will have changed – the atmosphere in society” when most will expect a revolution and that will become “a self-fulfilling prognosis.” The question is which of the two kinds of revolution Russia will go through, one from above that might lead to a Pinochet-type regime and one from below that could lead to real changes. Each is possible with the latter bringing even more radical changes than the former, the historian says. “One way or another,” Pastukhov concludes, “the participation of new generations which came to the front of the stage at the end of Putin’s fourth term will decide the fate of Russia. Fortyyears after Mikhail Gorbachev began to lead the peoples of Russia out of soviet rule, Putin is losing his hope to become the ruler of Russia for life.” But that in turn means that “Russia will get a new chance to change its fate.”
Paul Goble Staunton, December 27 – Many now talk about “black swan” events, occurrences that are of low probability but that could happen and radically change the situation. Now, a group of Russian analysts has come up with 12 such events for the coming year, a list worthy of attention less because these things will happen than because some in Moscow consider them possibilities. They appear in the latest issue of Profile (storage5.static.itmages.ru/i/17/1227/h_1514367367_4768426_660dc5d31c.jpg) and include:
1.the adoption of a new rf constitution giving the leader lifetime incumbency and absolute power
2.the resignation of Donald Trump under threat of impeachment
3.a worldwide financial crisis because of insufficient liquidity given the tight money policies of most central banks
4.the implementation of harsh new US sanctions on Russia leading to a collapse of the ruble, massive capital flight, and economic collapse
5.the imposition of draconian social policies after the presidential election, including raising the retirement age and cutting other social benefits
6.the outbreak of a war between the US and North Korea
7.the failure of Russian athletes to be among the top ten teams at the South Korean Olympiad
8.a move by FIFA to pull the World Cup out of Russia and transfer it to England
9.a decision by Moscow to launch another small victorious war against another neighbor
10.the overthrow of the Maduro regime in Venezuela with Russia thus losing its investment there
11.the continued rapid absorption of private companies and banks by state corporations
12.the rise in the value of the bitcoin to 200,000 US dollars
How will the Kremlin handle Aleksei Navalny trolling the election? What effect will Ksenia Sobchak’s candidacy have and will she and Navalny cooperate? How will the system handle Vladimir Putin becoming an effective “lame duck” after March? Will there be “constitutional reform”? Will sanctions and the economy force a reset of foreign policy? Looking ahead to 2018, these are my five big Russia questions. And I explore each in a special year-end Power Vertical blog post featured below. The list, of course, isn’t exhaustive. There are others, like what will happen in Ukraine? And is the Minsk-2 cease-fire really dead in the water? (Something Michael Kimmage explores in a piece featured below.) Happy holidays everybody. And see you next year!
The Power Vertical looks ahead to the key questions looming in 2018. (The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.)
U.S. energy companies are muscling in on Russia’s turf in the EU. The Kremlin is not too happy about it.
Novatek’s Yamal project a watershed moment for the country’s hydrocarbon industry
More than a million people have left Russia to live and work abroad, including some of the brightest and best.
As 2017 draws to a close, foreign investors are apparently fleeing Russia in droves. According to a report in Kommersant, Russia stands to lose up to $1 billion due to the year-end exodus. As 2017 draws to a close, Vladimir Putin is desperately trying to persuade Russian oligarchs to repatriate their wealth. In remarks to lawmakers this week, the Kremlin leader called for a new amnesty program to “stimulate the return of capital to Russia.” As 2017 draws to a close, economists are increasingly talking about a looming liquidity crisis. When Russia’s Central Bank was forced to bail out Promsvyazbank, the country’s ninth-largest lender, earlier this month, it marked the third major bank failure in four months. And as 2017 draws to a close, many in the Russian elite are more than a bit jittery about what will happen in February 2018. Because that is when a U.S. government report is due identifying Russia’s most significant political figures and oligarchs — many of whom could be subject to tough new sanctions. At the heart of the conflict between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the West is a struggle between two normative systems: one based on transparency, the rule of law, and the sanctity of contracts; and one based on kleptocracy, cronyism, and patron-client relations. For years, Putin’s cronies have been able to have it both ways. They accumulated their wealth in one system at home and kept it safe in another system abroad. As 2017 draws to a close, that is coming to an end. When Western sanctions against Russia were first announced back in 2015, many in the Kremlin elite laughed them off. As 2017 draws to a close, they aren’t laughing anymore.
Many foreign investors appear to be using the last days of 2017 to pull money out of Russia amid concern that new U.S. sanctions next year may target Russian oligarchs and state corporations that a…
ON MY MIND Foreign investors are reportedly fleeing Russia in droves in anticipation of possible new U.S. sanctions next year. Kommersant reported that Russia could lose as much as $1 billion in investment due to the year-end exodus. Earlier this month, Russia’s Central Bank nationalized Promsvyazbank, the country’s ninth-largest lender, and bailed out its creditors. It marked the third major bank failure in four months. These tremors point to one of the key questions as we look ahead to 2018: Will sanctions and a struggling economy finally force Vladimir Putin’s regime to reset its foreign policy, seek an exit strategy from its war in the Donbas, and ease its confrontation with the West? In a piece (featured below), Russian historian and political activist Aleksandr Skobov offers a skeptical take. Skobov argues that just as during the Cold War, conflicts between the West’s liberal system and the illiberal Putinist system have an irreconcilably and irrevocably antagonistic character. He concludes that this “‘Second Cold War’ will only grow and can end only with the complete destruction of one of the systems.” It’s a pessimistic take to be sure. And a sobering one for anybody hoping for a new reset, or a new detente.
The threat of US sanctions makes closer links to the the Russian president not so desirable.
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia should scrap the 13 percent profit tax on funds repatriated from abroad and renew an amnesty from penalties for businesses returning capital.
A study by Mediascope says the broadcast of Moscow’s Victory Day Marchthrough Red Square scored the highest television ratings of the year in Russia.
Critics say clashes over what constitutes art signal creeping authoritarianism under Russian President Vladimir Putin and a conservative, nationalist, and sometimes religious agenda.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 25 – Twenty-six years after the USSR came apart, 58 percent of Russians say they regret that outcome, the highest share since 2009; and 52 percent say that it could have been avoided, views that mirror those of Vladimir Putin who has described the end of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. The new Levada Center poll found that only a quarter of the sample did not express regret about the events of 1991 and that 29 percent said that the disintegration of the Soviet Union was inevitable. Relatively large shares – 16 percent and 19 percent respectively – either had no opinion or couldn’t express one (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A409F513A329). Fifty-four percent expressed regret about the collapse of the USSR because it “destroyed a unified economic system.” Thirty-six percent said that as a result, “people had lost a sense of belonging to a great power.” Thirty-four percent said the country’s collapse had led to growing distrust. And 26 percent mentioned the loss of ties with relatives and friends. This sense of imperial regret, Russian commentator Igor Yakovenko says, explains why all the candidates running for president support maintaining the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation or even its expansion, although some opposition figures are prepared to consider changing the status of Crimea (afterempire.info/2017/12/25/igla/).
Paul Goble Staunton, December 27 – Vladimir Putin’s efforts to destroy the remaining elements of federalism in Russia via “preventive democracy” in his de facto appointment of governors and his attacks on the rights of non-Russian republics to maintain their own languages through a requirement that pupils there study them in schools are well known. Indeed, Vadim Shtepa, the editor of the After Empire portal and perhaps the most prominent Russian federalist active today, has taken the lead in describing these processes. (See his essay on the subject at jamestown.org/program/kremlin-uses-preventive-democracy-reinforce-russias-post-federalism-part-one/ and jamestown.org/program/kremlin-uses-preventive-democracy-reinforce-russias-post-federalism-part-two/.) But in a new essay, the federalist writer says that federalism in Russia is under attack not only from above but also from below, a development that has attracted far less attention but one that is especially serious because it makes the triumph of Putin’s centralist and unitary views all that more likely (afterempire.info/2017/12/26/reservations/). Remarkably this attack has emerged most prominently in Tataarstan, the republic which for many years “considered itself to be in a privileged position in comparison with other republics in Russia” and which between 2002 and 2012 issued the Kazansky federalist, an academic journal devoted to federal issues (kazanfed.ru/publications/kazanfederalist/). But in the last year, Kazan has suffered two key defeats: Moscow refused to extend the power-sharing treaty that had defined relations between Moscow and the republic and it has successfully stripped Tatarstan of the right to require all pupils in its school to study Tatar as the state language of Tatarstan. Many Tatars are outraged and ready to do what they can to fight back, but others are adopting approaches that eviscerate what is left of federalism for Tatarstan and the other republics and at the very least represent a retreat from the positions that were regularly espoused by Kazansky federalist and the republic leadership in the past. This conflict broke out in earnest at a roundtable in Kazan earlier this month nominally devoted to the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution but in fact about the fate of federalism and centralism in Russia now (business-gazeta.ru/article/366903, business-gazeta.ru/article/367016 and business-gazeta.ru/article/367137). Shtepa says that far too many of the participants in this meeting reduced federalism to an ethnic question by insisting as Indus Tagirov did that “federalism secures the rights of nationalities,” even though federalism as a system exists not in the first instance to do that but rather to keep power closer to the people. That reflects the heritage of Soviet times when the RSFSR was “initially formed as an asymmetric federation in which national republics had more rights and authority than ‘ordinary’ oblasts.” That notion remains in place but it has not ensured that federalism as constitutionally protected power sharing does. The meeting ended by calling for the convention of “a democratic congress of the peoples of Russia,” an idea that at first glance may seem a good one but that has nothing to do with promoting federalism because there is no clear definition of how delegates to such a meeting would be selected. And that was followed by a suggestion from Rafael Khakimov, the director of the Kazan Institute of History, a prominent federalist in the past, and an advisor to former Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaymiyev, that Tatars should organize “an all-Russian Tatar Party” (business-gazeta.ru/article/367179). That too sounds fine but there are two problems with it, Shtepa continues. On the one hand, Russian law makes such a party illegal from the outset; and on the other, it has nothing to do with federalism but rather seeks to maintain a privileged position for non-Russians in a system that looks less like federalism than centralism with native reservations. “As a result, the strange impression arises that the liquidation of Russian federalism is taking place ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ at one and the same time. The Kremlin is openly transforming Russia into a unitary centralized stage in which ‘the federation’ remains only on paper.” And simultaneously, “Tatar scholars and activists are ready to defend the federation only if it secures ‘special status’ for the national republics and not more rights for all regions,” a position that allows Moscow to play the one against the other and thus succeed in reducing the rights of both. Despite this unfortunate trend, Shtepa says, “it is impossible to destroy the idea of federalism in Russia; and sometimes it returns in an unexpected way.” A recent example of this was the Fourth Forum of Free Russia in Vilnius earlier this month which unlike its predecessors made federalism a major focus of the deliberations of Russian democratic activists. That meeting’s talk about “de-imperialization and federalization” may “seem somewhat fantastic and far from reality” as Russians prepare to re-elect Vladimir Putin. But it helps break the assumption that many have that “the current status quo” in Russia is “’eternal’” and not subject to radical change.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 23 – According to a poll conducted by the VTsIOM agency, Russians now have begun to feel even happier than they did before the onset of the crisis as measured by the different between those who tell sociologists that they are happy and those who say they are not. Valery Fedorov, the head of VTsIOM, says that this shows that people have adapted to “the new and far from simple conditions of life” and have learned “to feel themselves happy not thank to but in spire of” low pay, inadequate pensions, unemployment, and rising prices (svpressa.ru/society/article/189320/). Experts, however, cast doubt on the VTsIOM claim. Andrey Bunich, a Moscow economist, says the polling firm’s data are highly problematic not only because the firm is linked to the authorities but also because of the difficulties of measuring “happiness” in all circumstances. International experience shows that is very difficult. “For example,” he says, “people in North Korea are absolutely happy and if someone isn’t happy, he will quickly be picked up and made happy in special places.” But not only political situations vary but so too do the mentalities of various peoples: some nations are more inclined to happiness than others. Propaganda also plays a role, Bunich says. In the US, people are encouraged to be upbeat lest they be classed as “losers” or “failures.” Such views are also found among some Russians, “especially among the young.” And they are promoted by Moscow television which “zombifies” viewers and encourages them to view the world as the Kremlin wants them to. But that in turn means that poll results in places like Russia resemble imaginary surveys in mad houses: there almost everyone is happy and smiling, at least after they are given their medications. “And with us, something like that has taken place over the last several years,” the economist says. A second expert, social psychologist Aleksey Roshchin, agrees that there is little reason to trust polls in Russia today. As in Soviet times, they work under the direction of the powers that be. But nonetheless, their findings can be explained not just by what the authorities want but by how Russians react to circumstances. Some Russians do strive to improve themselves even if that is hard or impossible. Others feel that no real improvement is possible and so adapt to what is. And a third group, perhaps the largest of all, is happy that despite everything, at least there is no war, an attitude that the authorities of course encourage. The balance of these three groups has varied over the last 25 years. People were striving to improve themselves before 2014 and having the usual difficulties in doing so, Consequently, at that time, there were fewer happy Russians. But now they have given up, accepted they can’t achieve anything much, and are happier as a result. “If before the crisis, an individual wanted to build a dacha, travel around the world or buy a car, now under crisis conditions, he recognizes” that he can’t do those things but has much to be pleased about, including the absence of war. Thus, things are “remarkable” and he or she will tell pollsters that they’re happy – just as they were in Brezhnev’s time.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 25 – “Imagine,” Boris Vishnevsky suggests, if senior German officials were to declare that “the repressions which the Nazi regime carried out had an objective side and were operations directed at blocking the undermining activity of agents of foreign intelligence services … and his officers called themselves Gestapo officers.” And then, the opposition deputy in St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly says, imagine that the chancellor of Germany “were to declare that the absolute majority of Gestapo officers were real statesmen and patriots.” Almost certainly, the response would be an explosion of public protest (echo.msk.ru/blog/boris_vis/2116956-echo/). One can only imagine this because “never would the leaders of present-day Germany permit themselves such a justification of Nazi crimes and the glorification of the executioners,” Vishnevsky says. But that is exactly what FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov and President Vladimir Putin have done in Russia – and with far less opposition that they should have faced. The Yabloko opposition party has denounced these statements as have some but far from all of the members of the Academy of Sciences, but most members of the opposition have said nothing and the people have not gone into the streets to protest this outrage, Vishnevsky continues. And here is why, he says. “The powers are confidently proceeding along ‘a Stalinist course,’” one in which the individual is nothing and the state is “immeasurably more important,” when anyone can be caught up by the organs of repression, and when any actions by them can and will be justified because officials will say that they don’t make mistakes. One can only praise those who have spoken out against such outrages, Vishnevsky says, especially because the Putin regime has not yet succeeded in completely restoring a Stalinist regime. There is still time to stop it – and the key date now is March 18, 2018, when Russians can quietly but firmly say no to a return of those horrors.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 22 – Having arrived in Daghestan as an ethnic outsider and declared that he would not follow the ethnic quota system that has been the basis of stability there (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/10/taymyr-regionalism-only-one-of-ethnic.html), republic head Vladimir Vasilyev has now decided to take on the Sufi establishment. According to Artur Priymak of Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vasilyev has concluded that the Sufi hierarchy in Daghestan is insufficiently committed to the fight against jihadism and thus not a reliable defender of what Moscow has always referred to as “traditional” Sunni Islam (ng.ru/kartblansh/2017-12-22/3_7142_kartblansh.html). Given the strength of Sufism in Daghestan’s numerous ethnic groups and its control of the chief Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) there, that sets the stage for a serious conflict, one that could tear that republic apart even more than the ethnically blind approach Vasiliyev has adopted and increase rather than decrease the still powerful and violent Islamist movement there. After being appointed republic head by Vladimir Putin, Vasiliyev did what any Daghestani leader might have been expected to do: he named one of the streets in Makhachkala after a Sufi sheikh who was killed by terrorists in 2011. That sent a message that he would defer to the Sufis who have long dominated Daghestan. But then, Ravil Gaynutdin, the head of the Union of Muftis of Russia (SMR), apparently convinced him that the Sufis were not a reliable ideological ally in the war against jihadism and that he, Gaynutdin, would set up special courses to help bring the mullahs and imams of the republic up to snuff because “one can’t fight an ideology only with guns.” “In other words,” Priumak continues, “the SMR leader criticized the level of theological education of the Sufi imams of Daghestan and also how these imams in their homilies are fighting against jihadist ideology.” By all accounts, Vasiliyev agrees with this assessment and is now ready to go after the Sufi establishment. The main problem from Vasiliyev’s point of view, the journalist suggests, is that Sufism in its Daghestani variant has traditionally maintained respectful relations with Salafism. Daghestani Sufis challenge the Salafis but do not treat them as the enemies of “traditional” Islam as Moscow prefers to do. “There is no basis to link the exodus of ordinary Daghestanis into the Salafis and the relatively peaceful Salafis into the ‘forest’ bandits” with the relatively neutral attitude of the Sufi establishment to them, but “in a region where jihadist terror is the norm, people do idealize Salafi theory and practice” and some leaders, religious and secular, view them as a problem. According to Priymak, some believe that Vasiliyev has accepted Gaynutdin’s view because he views “Daghestani Sufism as well as the Caucasus mentality through the prism of professional distrust,” a distrust he developed in 1999-2001 when working in the Russian Security Council overseeing Chechnya. But Sufism both as an ideology and as an organized structure is extremely strong in Daghestan; and as a result, if Vasiliyev moves against it head on, he may generate even more resistance to himself and to Moscow than his “ethnicity blind” policies have up to now. Those in almost all cases have run into a brick wall of resistance. Indeed, it may even be that the resistance he has encountered in that sector is the reason Vasilyev has decided to attack in another direction.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 25 – More than three dozen candidates have registered or plan to register to run against Vladimir Putin for the office of Russian president, but perhaps the most striking is Ayna Zairbekovna Gamzatova, the wife of and advisor to Akhmad Abdulayev, the head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Daghestan. Her supporters have announced plans for a meeting on December 30 in Makhachkala so that she can file registration documents in Moscow by January 1 (riaderbent.ru/supruga-muftiya-dagestana-vydvigaetsya-v-prezidenty-rossii.html). Gamzatova is an impressive figure in her own right. She is a member of the Russian journalists’ union, the chief editor of the republic journal Islam, and the head of a media holding in that North Caucasus republic which owns television, radio and print outlets. But she is most widely known as the wife of the Daghestani mufti. Because of that, some Daghestanis oppose her candidacy because they do not think that the wife of a mufti should be running for the presidency of Russia.
Although they have been labelled a blue-collar workforce, many Central Asians work as engineers, doctors and scholars.
Russia’s Republic of Kalmykia has marked the 74th anniversary of the start of mass deportations of Kalmyks to Siberia by Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 22 – Many in the Russian Orthodox hierarchy like many Christians in general, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say, find it far easier to forgive those who are the oppressors than they do to show sympathy for the victims of such people, a pattern that does them little honor and makes the overcoming of the past far more difficult. That is especially the case with regard to Stalin’s repressions because the Moscow Patriarchate needs to justify its cooperation with him because that made possible the triumph of Orthodoxy after his death and indeed after the demise of the USSR, according to the paper (ng.ru/editorial/2017-12-22/2_7142_red.html). “The representatives of the Church easily find in the times of the godless five-year plans, “the ties” between the power and its unique moral code of statehood,” Nezavisimaya gazeta says. The church sees its reaching out to the state as a noble and useful pursue “for us all,” but it is unwilling to explore the moral problems this approach entails. The Moscow Patriarchate and many of its parishioners “somehow too easily adapt themselves if not with the thought about the inevitability of state terror in Bolshevik times then at least with the correctness displayed by the leaders of the Orthodox who concluded with the ‘godless’ a pact on mutually profitable cooperation.” And because the church looks at the repressive state this way, it looks on the victims of that state past and present more skeptically except when it has an immediate and direct interest in those who suffer such as priests. Otherwise, it is inclined to identify with the state rather than its victims, a position at variance with the teachings of Christ.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 22 – In their drive to suppress the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Russian courts have made Russia’s religion laws meaningless because to end run the legal ban on finding the basic texts of the country’s traditional faiths extremist, the courts have in effect declared that the Bible is the Bible only if the Moscow Patriarchate says it is, Roman Lunkin says. That has allowed the courts, in a finding confirmed yesterday, to say that the translation of the Bible prepared by the Jehovah’s Witnesses is not the Bible and is thus subject to being declared extremist and thus being banned, the religious legal affairs specialist continues (sclj.ru/news/detail.php?SECTION_ID=487&ELEMENT_ID=7732). One can only conclude, Lunkin argues, that this case should never have been brought before the courts and that the courts are simply being used as a cover for what the authorities want to do but that the law does not in fact allow. And they have been assisted in this by “experts” who do not know what they are talking about. One of them, Natalya Kryukova, quite publicly demonstrated that lack of competence by saying that one need not consider the content of a book or article to dealer it extremist but only the need to ban it in “’existing historical circumstances.’” That provides just the kind of argument that the Russian powers that be want. Russian laws under Putin have been moving in this direction, increasingly suggesting that the civil authorities have the right to decide on religious questions of a variety of kinds, Lunkin says; and by the amendments of 2015, they have created the current situation where the courts get to decide what in fact a holy text is. The experts in this case, however, went even further: they did not offer any discussion of the text but rather said the legitimacy of a holy text is defined by its general direction and whether or not it has the recognition of recognized religious authorities, in this case, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Leningrad oblast court rejected the arguments of the defenders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that at a minimum the authorities would have to compare the texts to see if something had been introduced in the one that did not exist in the others. But it seems, Lunkin says, that using the word Jehovah in the title was enough for the judges. What makes this especially comic and tragic at the same time is that until 2007, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia were quite ready to use the Patriarchate-approved translation of the Bible. They only began working on their own translation into modern Russian in 1994 and completed it in 2007. Since then, they have distributed some five million copies of it. And thus it has happened “in Russia that the state for the first time has forced believers to reject one text of the holy writings in favor of another text of the same writings” or find themselves in violation of the law and thus subject to criminal punishments and bans. That is the upshot of the Moscow view that “faith is a source of danger” unless the Kremlin controls it.
Patriarch Kirill is still quite alive, but that’s not stopping the Russian Orthodox Church from erecting a monument to its sitting high priest in Moscow. The monument will appear near the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and Kirill’s statue will be one of 16 dedicated to the church’s patriarchs over the years.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 25 – Moscow has managed to suppress almost all coverage of the ten-day long-haul trucker strike across Russia that ended today, but drivers in many regions in the North Caucasus, the Urals, Siberia and the Far East took part and declared among other things that under the Constitution, the people “are the only source of power” in the country. Only three reports about the strike appeared in the last 24 hours, a measure of the government’s crackdown on coverage rather than of the strength and size of the drivers’ action against the Plato fee system and the government’s efforts to extract more money from them and impose greater controls on their activities. First, in Vladivostok, officials tried various devices to block or at least divert the truckers and their plans for a rally, but the truckers assembled anyway and despite official bans on signs put up ones declaring that “we are the only source of power in Russia. We are the bearers of sovereignty” (dv.kp.ru/daily/26774/3807662/). Perhaps important for the future, the United Carriers Union action against Plato was joined not only by members of the National-Liberation Movement (NOD) but also by members of the public who said that they viewed the truck drivers as their allies in opposing rapidly rising domestic gas prices. Second, in Yekaterinburg, the truckers appealed to all drivers to stop their cars or trucks in sympathy with them. The long-haul drivers there have been out since December 15 to demand the repeal not only of the Plato fee system but also of weight and other restrictions the authorities have imposed on them recently (oblgazeta.ru/news/32454/). And third, drivers elsewhere in Sverdlovsk oblast declared that they were ready to continue their strike, even though some drivers have been arrested and will be tried tomorrow (eanews.ru/news/society/V_Sverdlovskoy_oblasti_budut_sudit_dalnoboyschikov_za_stachku_protiv_Platona_25_12_2017/). The Sverdlovsk drivers told local journalists they were encouraged by the fact that they have been able to join forces with the all-Russian action against rising gas prices. How much coverage that protest will receive remains very much an open question.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 24 – The Media Guard organization, which has been organized by United Russia’s Young Guard group, says that residents in the two capitals are far more likely to visit sites containing information the authorities have banned as extremist than are Russians in other regions of the country. Anna Rogacheva, the head of Media Guard, says that her group has identified 786 sites carrying banned stories about drugs, suicides and extremism and sent its findings to the Russian government authorities so that they can take action to block these sites (ng.ru/politics/2017-12-18/3_7139_internet.html). According to her, 185 of these sites contained “propaganda of extremism and terrorism.” But what is especially concerning, Rogacheva continued, is that these sites are directed at and reaching far larger audiences in Moscow and St. Petersburg than they are in Russian cities elsewhere in the country. Muscovites constitute “almost 38 percent” of the visitors to these sites, she reports; Petersburgers, 20.1 percent, Samara residents 2.64 percent, Yekaterinburgers 2.32 percent, Vladivostok residents, 2.02 percent, Yaroslavl residents 1.94 percent; and Krasnodar residents 1.69 percent. Rogacheva said that in the view of her group, the authorities should focus on this pattern and take action, although she quickly added that in her view, the powers that be have done a good job in reducing the number of such sites and the visitors to them over the last year. But since 70 million Russians now go online each day, the battle must be stepped up.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 24 – Seventy-five years ago, at Stalin’s direction, Soviet citizens were ordered to use the letter ё rather than carry on as they had and use e in its place because it was critically important to designate names and places during wartime, according to historian Yevgeny Pchelov. He argues that ignoring this difference as ever more Russians seem inclined to do is “fraught with serious consequences” and thus something he and others like him are prepared to “fight to the death” to preserve the difference between the letters ё and e (vz.ru/society/2017/12/24/900962.html). Stalin’s directive was “the only official document” in Russia regulating the alphabet with regard to this letter; but it didn’t last. In 1956, during the anti-Stalin campaign, the order was rescinded and today “almost nowhere” is the letter ё used, a trend that some scholars including Pchelov are seeking to reverse. The history of the letter is complicated. In Old Church Slavonic, the ё doesn’t exist, even though there is evidence that in oral speech, Russians spoke as if it existed. It began to appear in written form in the 18th century and appeared set to become a standard as a result of the alphabet reforms of 1917. But that hasn’t happened, Pchelov says, despite his efforts and that of his late co-author Viktor Chumakov at the end of the 1990s to promote it via a book about its importance and in speeches and articles across the country. There has been some improvement, the scholar says, but not nearly enough – and the stakes are high. Without it, the Russian language is at risk. Unless the ё makes a comeback, there will be increasing confusion about personal names and place names as well as confusion between words that are distinguished only by the presence or absence of that letter, Pchelov continues. And thus there shouldn’t be any real reason for people not to use it consistentlyi. “Nothing needs to be renamed,” he points out. “It is only necessary to begin to write correctly. And for this are needed [only] will, desire, and respect for the Russian language.”
Paul Goble Staunton, December 23 – A recent Levada Center survey found that 39 percent of Russians say they identify with the place where they were born and grew up, a figure exceeded only by the history of their country and more than twice the 17 percent who identify with the Russian state (newsru.com/russia/21dec2017/opros.html). In an interview with the After Empire portal, Roman Bagdasarov, a specialist on religion and culture, points out that the word motherland is “literally the place of birth” and therefore is fixed for all time, while the idea of “’a big motherland’” is inevitably a construction that changes as identities change (afterempire.info/2017/12/22/malaya_rodina/). “The larger in size the ‘big’ motherland is, the more imagination is needed to embrace it,” the scholar continues. But while no Russian citizen has ever seen the entire country – it is too big for that — those who identify with it as a motherland do not have any doubts about their connection with it in its full extent. At the same time, Bagdasarov says, people can change their “big” motherlands many times in the course of their lives either by moving or because of political changes; but no matter how much that happens, their “small” motherlands remain constant and unique. No one can change where he or she was born. They may change their attitudes toward that place, but for Russians, there is a fifth line of the passport which continues to matter to them throughout their lives, “’the place of birth.’” “In Soviet times,” After Empire points out, “regions of the empire such as oblasts and republics were often understood as ‘small motherlands.’” Estonia before 1991 was for its residents “’a small motherland.’” But after 1991, it became a “big” one – and now Bagdasarov adds, it may become once again a “small” one but this time within the European Union. Sometimes when people change their big motherland for another, they compensate by becoming more conscious of other identities such as ethnicity, the cultural specialist says, as when ethnic Ukrainians left Tajikistan after the latter place became independent. But at the same time, they retain a link to the place where they were born even if it is less close. But even without changes in political borders, individuals may change the way they link themselves to their small motherlands, viewing them as more important than they were, something that appears to be happening in many places in Russia, or less, depending on the social and political winds.
A group of teachers and linguists is mounting a petition drive to urge President Vladimir Putin to preserve the mandatory status of Ossetian-language classes in the North Ossetia region.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 23 – Mass graves became a new and widespread reality in the first decades of Soviet power, sometimes for ideological reasons — the Soviet man shouldn’t think about life after death — and sometimes for economic ones – the number of deaths was beyond the capacity of the regime to inter people individually, Svetlana Malysheva says. In a new study which she calls “The Communization of Death,” the researcher at the Higher School of Economics says that in the first years of Soviet power, the Bolsheviks viewed mass graves as a positive educational experience for the citizenry because such places undermined traditional religious ideas (iq.hse.ru/news/213310804.html). In many places, she notes, people were buried in mass graves even if there was every possibility for them to be buried in individual ones. This was intended, Malysheva says, to deprive death of its “sacred status” and to promote atheism. And where mass graves were a problem because of space, the regime turned to promoting cremation. At the same time, she continues, “common graves were first of all significantly cheaper and second they solved the problem of lack of space in cemeteries.” But they had an unexpected and unwanted consequence: by the end of the 1920s, Soviet citizens were showing their indifference to the mass graves of Soviet heroes as well as to others. That led the NKVD and health commissariat in 1929 to ban mass graves. But that ban did not last because the number of victims of the Stalinist system – purges, expulsions, deportations and so on – and of World War II overwhelmed the regime’s capacity to bury people individually or even to identify victims by name. In the case of “enemies,” the authorities didn’t want to. “Enemies of the people” who were executed or died in the camps were typically buried in mass graves without any identification at all. During the war, the Soviets buried both Soviet victims and German ones in mass graves, although at least in principle they tried to separate the two, identifying the former while often not putting up any markers on the latter. After 1945, residents of many villages where there were mass graves put up memorial plinths with the names of the dead, a means, Malysheva says, of overcoming the trauma of loss and the impossibility of burying all the dead in individual graves at the time. Such plinths were typically paid for not by the state but by public collections. “In the 1950s and 1960s,” she continues, “the cult of fallen heroes acquired state importance, and cenotaphs were put up by administrations in the regions. On the sites of fraternal graves, major memorials were erected.” The authorities were less interested in having memorials go up over fraternal graves of victims of the war who weren’t in uniform. In the latter case, Malysheva says, the authorities tried to play down or ignore how many such mass graves there were not only to avoid any discussion of the role of the Soviet state in these deaths both directly and indirectly but also to avoid spending money on such projects when the regime was focusing on others.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 23 – On the anniversary of the execution of Stalin’s notorious secret police chief Lavrenty Beria whose removal from the scene required Moscow to require owners of the Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopedia to remove the article on Beria and insert one on the Bering Straits, Vladimir Putin has released a new Bolshaya Rossiiskaya Entsiklopedia. The current Kremlin leader called for the compilation of such an encyclopedia in 2002, and now all 35 volumes have been released. Like its Soviet predecessors, the new source reflects the ideological preferences of the employers of the compilers at least as they exist at the present time (svobodaradio.livejournal.com/3301419.html). Like Stalin, Putin gets enormous attention: 22 pages in the new set; but Aleksandr Pushkin, Russia’s greatest poet, gets only four; and there are none at all for figures like Boris Nemtsov, Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky or Yury Shevchuk. One wonders what new Bering Straits articles will be needed when the ideological winds shift.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 24 – Since Aleksandr Ostrovsky introduced the Snow Maiden in 1873, she has been among the most popular Russian figure associated with the New Year’s holiday and has undergone a remarkable evolution “from the innocent companion of Father Frost to a sexually aggressive figure in erotic films,” the Culturology blog says. In Ostrovsky’s story, the Snow Maidan was presented not as the granddaughter of Father Frost but as his helpmate, a portrayal that meant she varied widely in age and style. Sometimes she was very young and at others much older; and sometimes she was shown as a peasant girl but at others as the Snow Queen (kulturologia.ru/blogs/020116/27844/). At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the Snow Maidan was pictured by some of Russia’s most prominent artists and stage designers, and the Culturology portal provides reproductions of many of the most famous of these portrayals, some of which still define how Russians view this figure. But the contemporary image of the Snow Maidan arose in 1935 when Stalin decided to allow Russians to celebrate New Year’s, a holiday that the Bolsheviks up to then had viewed as “a bourgeois survival of the past.” As part of that holiday, the Snow Maiden was recognized as an official symbol. And she was joined forever as a partner with Father Frost. That did not end the evolution of her portrayal, however. First with cartoons and then in films, she was “modernized.” And then “beginning in the 2000s,” she began to be “exploited in erotic photo-sessions and adult films,” in which she was completely detached from her origins and reduced to a subject of “erotic fantasies.” Despite that, the earlier image remains the one most Russians think of, a unique symbol of purity and renewal.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 25 – In “celebration” of Western Christmas, Russia Today featured a video clip showing an American child putting out cookies and milk for Santa Claus, then waking up and discovering that Russia’s Father Frost has tied Santa Claus up in the kitchen and being forced to recite some Russian poetry. At the end of the clip, the following words appear: “We’ve hacked Christmas!” with the signature line, “Russian hackers.” Even Znak described this as aggressive (znak.com/2017-12-25/russia_today_vypustil_agressivnyy_novogodniy_rolik_so_vzlomannym_rozhdestvom). Other, more critical words come to mind. To get the full flavor of this tasteless performance, view it at t.me/lentachold/12730.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 23 – A new study conducted jointly by the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies and the Southern Kazakhstan State University finds that Kazakhs see practical advantages, logistic, educational, and economic, in working with Russia but are put off by frequent displays of Russian xenophobia toward them. Igor Savin, one of the co-directors of the project which interviewed people in Petropavlovsk and Almaty, says that Kazakhstan residents and especially those in the northern part of that country routinely use Russian air routes because they are more convenient than flying through domestic airports (centrasia.ru/news.php?st=1513544640). One Kazakh woman, for example, said “we always fly through Russian, unfortunately. Unfortunately, not because it is through Russia but because we don’t have an airport working nearby” within Kazakhstan. Ethnic Russians were more likely to express that view than ethnic Kazakhs, Savin suggests. The sample also said that they viewed Russian education and health care as being better and that at least when the ruble declined in value market prices in Russian stores as making trips there to purchase goods worthwhile. And they noted that the larger Russian market provides greater opportunities for Kazakh businessmen than Kazakhstan does. But they also said that Russian officialdom restricted business activities more often than its Kazakhstan counterpart and complained that “in Russia, people relate to non-Russians poorly,” an opinion they have formed from personal experience, Russian and Kazakh media and social media like Youtube.
A court in Moscow has sentenced Hermitage Capital head William Browder to nine years in prison in absentia after finding him guilty of deliberate bankruptcy and tax evasion.
Russian television anchor Pavel Lobkov was in the studio getting ready for his show when jarring news flashed across his phone: Some of his most intimate messages had just been published to the web.
Police in Volgograd have opened a criminal investigation after someone apparently cut the brakes in a car owned by Yulia Zavyalova, the chief editor of the local news outlet Bloknot. The incident itself took place in late November.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 22 – A new 57-page report prepared jointly by the Mediastandart Foundation and Aleksey Kudrin’s Committee on Civic Initiatives finds that the media in a majority of Russian regions is now stagnating, the result of a combination of state policy and the weakness of the advertising sector there. The full report, available at komitetgi.ru/analytics/3573/ and summarized by Simon Zhvoronkov on the Polit.ru portal (polit.ru/article/2017/12/21/media/), rates the media in the regions according to 50 criteria and concludes that the situation varies widely but in almost no places can they be described as flourishing. Over the last three years, the gap between the most developed regional media, which includes those in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yamalo-Nenets district, the Moscow oblast, the Nenets district, Sakhalin oblast, Khabarovsk kray and some others, and the least, which includes Crimea, Transbaikal kray, the Jewish autonomous oblast, and Kalmykia, has widened. State regulation played a major but not exclusive role in this. The ban on foreign investors has hurt the regional outlets, and the preference of the authorities for central rather than regional media has as well. Moreover, the traditional media are far more regulated than the new media, and people are thus choosing the latter. But also significant in the decline of regional media over the last several years has been the collapse of advertising revenue from the state and from business — which has left outlets with ever less income and the harsh choice between raising prices or going out of business. And as prices rise, fewer people buy them because they too are suffering from the economic downturn.
Patriarch Kirill is still quite alive, but that’s not stopping the Russian Orthodox Church from erecting a monument to its sitting high priest in Moscow. The monument will appear near the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and Kirill’s statue will be one of 16 dedicated to the church’s patriarchs over the years.
Unknown assailants have severely beaten an environmental activist in Russia’s southwestern city of Krasnodar.
Russia’s telecommunications watchdog has demanded an explanation from social media networks Facebook and Instagram for their disabling of accounts belonging to Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed …
Facebook says it blocked the social-media accounts of Ramzan Kadyrov because the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader had become subject to financial and travel sanctions imposed by the U.S. government.
Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin has been released from detention in Moscow after being held and fined for staging a demonstration that authorities said was conducted without their permiss…
The husband of a Russian TV presenter who was found dead at her home, has reportedly been arrested in connection with her death. Zhanna Veber, 29, was found at the property in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia, which borders both Urkaine and Georgia. Local media reported that she was killed in front of her nine-year-old son Dmitry.
Two police officers outside Moscow have been fired and several others were disciplined for failing to do their jobs, following a local man’s attack on his wife that left her without both her hands.
A Russian court has ruled that Yury Dmitriyev, a historian and activist who is being tried on child-pornography charges his supporters say are politically motivated, will be released from pretrial …
Paul Goble Staunton, December 27 – The number of civilian airfields in the Russian Federation has fallen from 1450 in 1991 to 228 now, a decline that means the largest country in the world now has fewer airports than the US state of Alaska (which has 282) and a particular disaster for a country that relies on air travel because of the lack of a comprehensive highway system. In the current issue of Sovershenno Sokretno, Anatoly Zhurin says that as a result, “about 70 percent of the territory of the country doesn’t have sufficient access to aviation.” That means that some 20 million people are cut off entirely or forced to travel to neighboring areas via Moscow (sovsekretno.ru/articles/id/5809/). The situation has become especially dire in the Far North and Far Est, he continues, precisely where air routes should be developed because creating them is far less expensive than building highways over the enormous distances in those places. And that means the absence of aviation routes has a negative impact on “the preservation of the integrity of the country.” The situation began to deteriorate in the 1990s, Zhurin says, when the government decided that “the invisible hand” of the market would solve all problems and exited from the sector almost entirely, leading to the rapid closing of airports and routes and making the restoration of both now extremely expensive. Domestic air travel by Russians collapsed and only last year reached the same level it was in 1991, 88.5 million people. Airport operators attempted to put pressure on the government by forming their own association, but the government did not view that body as something it could or would cooperate with. And things have continued to deteriorate. One needn’t reinvent the wheel but create institutions like those which exist in all modern countries. So far, however, Moscow hasn’t. And there must be a recognition that the private sector on its own cannot solve the problem. It doesn’t in other countries, Zhurin says, and it is a mistake to think that it can in Russia given the country’s need to ensure that people can move easily from one place to another for education, health care, business and national security.
State farms like Komsomolskoye were once building blocks of the Soviet system, and heirs to Russia’s ancient village culture. But today they are almost ghost towns, with mere handfuls of pensioners still calling them home – risking the loss of a whole way of life.
2017 saw increased targeting of gay communities in former Soviet republics by official crackdowns and homophobic thugs. Horrific tales have emerged from Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and Central Asia — ev…
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said a blast that injured at least 10 people at a St. Petersburg supermarket was a terrorist act, and urged security forces to “take no prisoners” when dealing with imminent threats from terror-plot suspects.
President Vladimir Putin has instructed security forces to kill all terrorists who threaten the lives of security officers after calling Wednesday’s explosion in St. Petersburg a “terrorist attack.” An improvised explosive device packed with projectiles was set off at a St. Petersburg supermarket late Wednesday, injuring 13 people. The suspect was reportedly caught on security camera footage as he left a backpack that detonated later at the coat check.
At least 13 people were injured when an improvised explosive device went off at a storage area for customers’ bags at the supermarket in St. Petersburg.
Police surrounded a candy factory in Moscow after an attacker fatally shot a security guard and injured three people on December 27. Authorities said the assailant was the factory’s former owner, Ilya Averyanov, who was not yet detained. In a phone call to a radio station, Averyanov had claimed he was defending himself against a “gang” he accused of seizing the property in collusion with Moscow prosecutors. (Reuters)
The Russian-language social-media accounts of Ramzan Kadyrov are unavailable, just days after the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya was hit by the U.S. Treasury Department with financial and travel…
The video showed a dachshund named Nikolas submerged in a small container of oxygen-rich liquid.
While one is only an intern, another is already supervising alcohol!
The Air Force of Kazakhstan has received two new Su-30SM multirole fighter aircraft from Russia, according to local media reports. The Sukhoi Su-30SM, fighter aircrafts have been delivered to the aviation base in Taldykorgan, Kazakhstan from Irkutsk, Russia. “Today, the aviation fleet of the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan has received modern high maneuverable Su-30 SM fighters. This increases the capacity of Kazakhstan’s Air Forces. In addition, the flying squad is able to reach higher level of competence thanks to technical characteristics of the aircraft. Su-30 SM will significantly increase the security of the Kazakhstani airspace. Thanks to the President of Kazakhstan and the Commander in Chief of the Air forces Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstani Army strengthens year after year obtaining modern equipment and enhancing the professionalism of the military personnel,” Major General Nurlan Ormanbetov of the Kazakhstan Air Forces said.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko is temporarily stepping down from his post as head of the country’s soccer federation amid pressure over allegations of systematic doping, Russian news ag…
The chairman of Russia’s successful 2018 World Cup local organizing committee is stepping down amid allegations that he and other government officials supervised and financed state-sponsored doping, state-run media reported Wednesday.
The Russian Minister of Sport, Pavel Kolobkov, has told journalists that his ministry will organize and carry out separate games for athletes …
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed a decree that legalizes transactions in cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin.
Transnistria / Moldova Reports
🇷🇴 Румынская сотня on Twitter: The Moldovan Parliament asked the Constitutional Court to again suspend Dodon from President’s duties and to transfer the right of signature to Speaker A. Candu to conduct rotations in Cabinet … cause: the refusal of Dodon to sign new appointments … https://t.co/OW4Z8gtT4D”
Moldovan leader Igor Dodon announced in an interview with Izvestia that there are two scenarios for the development of Moldova's relations with …
A U.S. bank has frozen $22.6 billion in assets owned by Kazakhstan’s National Fund as part of a legal battle between the government in Astana and a Moldovan investor, the Reuters news agency reports.
The Trump administration’s decision to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons is a decision fraught with implications that reach far beyond the dispatch of weapons.
As part of its recent investigation into MH17 alongside Bellingcat, the Russian publication The Insider interviewed infamous Russian-separatist commander Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, the former “defense…
Over the past three years, 13 Ukrainian analog TV channels have started broadcasting in the Donetsk region, as stated in a report titled, “The state of the information space of the Donetsk region: challenges and prospects,” RBC-Ukraine reports. The report was prepared by the Public Association ‘Analytical Center, Thought Factory of the Donbas’, in cooperation with the Ministry of Information Policy and the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting. Analog television has been restored in four cities, namely Avdiivka, Kurakhove, Volnovakha, and Yelyzavetivka.
It is noted that Ukraine has no presence in the media space in the temporarily uncontrolled territories (except for satellite television) and not fully on the controlled territories of the Donetsk region. The situation is caused by the fact that the technical infrastructure of television and radio broadcasting are situated in the uncontrolled territories.
Ukrainian troops shoot down Russian drone in ATO zone. View news feed in war news for 29 December from UNIAN Information Agency
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry says it’s using sophisticated U.S.-supplied Firefinder radars to monitor cease-fire violations by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Reuters, VOA)
The collection of emblems and drawings on Ukrainian military helicopters
Stratfor: Russia may make some headway on UN peacekeepers in Donbas. View news feed in news about politics for 28 December from UNIAN Information Agency
“Children from my city can distinguish between the sounds of explosions of different caliber shells. They know far too much about weapons.”
Ukraine Def. Ministry vows to strengthen borders in response to Russia’s militarization plans. Current news and events for 28 December from UNIAN Information Agency
Ukraine envoy says Russia withdrew from JCCC fearing to blow agents’ cover. View news feed in news about politics for 29 December from UNIAN Information Agency
Russia is not Ukraine’s partner; it is just a country that Ukraine trades with, Nataliya Mykolska, Trade Representative of Ukraine has told eurointegration.com.ua. She noted the trade turnover between the two countries is growing.
The introduction of biometric control at the border with the Russian Federation will contribute to strengthening the national security of Ukraine and complicate the work of Russian special services.
NATO does not see threat in Russia
Festive skit performed in Lviv featured a child in Jewish clothing with a sign reading ‘Jew for president’
Two more ships with American coal arrive in Ukraine. View news feed in news about economy for 29 December from UNIAN Information Agency
National Police Chief: Number of mob bosses in Ukraine has increased many-fold… Russia’s FSB is often behind this. The latest news from UNIAN for 29 December
Often unremarked or dismissed as state propaganda, Ukraine’s Soviet-era mosaics are also artworks in themselves that speak to a complex history.
Gen Ihor Romanenko points to vulnerability of Kerch bridge from military perspective. View news feed in news about politics for 29 December from UNIAN Information Agency
In January, the Russian military will strengthen the air defense of Crimea by new S-400 missile systems.
The Moscow Arbitration Court did not invalidate the deal on the supply of Siemens turbines to Rostec's subsidiary Technopromexport, RIA Novosti …
A Catholic worshiper community in the name of Saint Clement of Rome in Sevastopol, the Crimean peninsula annexed from Ukraine, held a Christmas …
A Tatar activist who was convicted of separatism and inciting ethnic hatred in a case he said was politically motivated has been released from prison in northern Russia after serving a three-year t…
During questioning in the court case against former President Viktor Yanukovych, who is accused of high treason, Ukrainian Commander of the Navy Ihor Voronchenko said that the Ukrainian military had been ready to fire from two tanks in the building of the Crimean Verkhovna Rada on February 27, 2014 in order to prevent the annexation of the peninsula by Russia, Ukrainski Novyny News agency reports. Voronchenko, who served as Chief of the Coastal Defense Administration at the time, said that on February 27, 2014, he provided the leadership of the Ukrainian Navy with a plan to use tanks to liberate the building of the Crimean Verkhovna Rada from the invaders, but received no response. Voronchenko also said that Alpha special operations unit of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) had been ready to unlock the captured buildings in the Crimea. He also noted that he received no orders in writing for the use of weapons during the annexation of the Crimea. Moreover, Voronchenko said that the Ukrainian intelligence services had previously warned of preparation by Russia to seize the peninsula, but the Ukrainian High Command did not take any action.
Voronchenko is sure that it was Yanukovych who, prior to Russian aggression in the Crimea, had to issue an order for martial law.
Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist republics held a prisoner exchange for the first time in over a year on Wednesday. Ukraine handed over 237 prisoners, while the two Russian-backed republics handed over 74 Ukrainian prisoners. Ukraine was supposed to hand over 306 prisoners, but 29 refused to go home during the exchange, and about 40 more who had been released from prison didn’t even show up. Nearly 30 Russian-backed separatist prisoners refused to go home during a prisoner swap with Ukraine on Wednesday, according to the Kyiv Post.
29.12.17 10:57 – Released separatists enjoyed no warm welcome: they were packed into buses, locked up in dungeons, – Donbas militant on prisoner swap A pro-Russian separatist Maxim Ravreba says the representatives of the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” gave a not very nice welcome to their henchmen liberated in the prisoner swap on Dec. 27. View news.
Gerashchenko tells about injuries Ukrainian hostages sustained while in militant captivity. “Many have old head injuries, teeth are knocked out, which evidences torture (many were severely beaten during their first hardest days)… Everyone will be provided with medical care, dental services. The Ministry of Social Policy is also working out all technical details so that the released receive a one-time monetary aid in the near future. The team of psychologists led by Vadym Svyrydenko is also actively working with the released and their families,” she wrote on Facebook.
According to Zhemchugov, Ukrainian medicine mainly focuses on physical rehabilitation, while mental is as important, – 112
Chief of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Hrytsak hopes that the next exchange of Ukrainian hostages will take place soon.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he has ordered his government to “immediately” resume talks with Moscow on the release of Ukrainian citizens from Russian custody following a prisoner swap…
28.12.17 12:54 – “Heroes, welcome home!” liberated Ukrainian hostages enjoy warm reception at Boryspil airport. PHOTOS The large-scale prisoner swap was successfully held in the Donbas on Dec. 27. Ukraine handed over 233 persons requested by the Russian mercenaries in exchange for 73 Ukrainian hostages. View news.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 27 – The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, virtually “the last acceptable mediator between Moscow and Kyiv,” played a key role in organizing the exchange of prisoners between the Russian-controlled Donbass and the Ukrainian government, an action that benefited the church at home and its branch in Ukraine as well. According to Pavel Skrylnikov of Nezavisimaya gazeta, with the Kremlin’s backing, “the role of the Russian Orthodox Church as a peacemaker in the region is becoming ever more prominent, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is if you will the main beneficiary of this process” (ng.ru/faith/2017-12-26/2_7144_rpc.html). Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Moscow church’s department for relations with society and the media, says that the church has “constantly” sought ways to overcome tensions in the Donbass and that while decisions about prisoner exchanges were taken by the respective “special services,” the church as an institution in Moscow and in Kyiv played a major role. Aleksey Makarkin, head of the Moscow Center for Political Technologies, notes that “the church is an exclusively ‘public’ participant in the peace process: it does not initiative peacekeeping missions and does not define their format. Nevertheless, it remains one of the few organizations capable of maintaining a dialogue between the two sides. That is especially important now that Moscow has withdrawn its participants from the Joint Center for the Control and Coordination of the Cease Fire Regime, and it is certain that the political authorities in the Russian capital are using the church to promote their goals in Ukraine, which includes boosting the status of the Moscow church there, he continues. Patriarch Kirill will certainly take credit for his role, but the most important beneficiary is likely to be the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate whose congregations the Kremlin clearly hopes to use to promote Russian influence in Ukraine far beyond the Donbass alone.
Russia / Iran / Syria / Iraq / OEF Reports
Summary Russia has been an empire throughout its history. Accordingly, the mechanisms and practices of imperial management, particularly Russia’s ability to coopt potential elites from minorities with whom it is interacting, have remained central to its political behavior at home and abroad. And it has expanded to create linkages—or what Celeste Wallander has called “trans-imperialism”—between members of Russia’s Islamic population and Middle Eastern elites, e.g. the use of Ramzan Kadyrov as an agent of Moscow in the Middle East. At the same time Russia has also sought expanded investment by Middle Eastern governments in projects aimed at benefitting Russia’s Muslims. But beyond attempting to create these kinds of trans-imperial linkages and coopt Muslims at home and abroad, Russia has actively exploited both domestic and foreign ethno-religious cleavages throughout its history to expand its power, territory, wealth and influence. Vladimir Putin’s regime is no exception, especially in Syria and the wider Middle East. The Kurds furnish a particularly revealing example of how Moscow has exploited these cleavages in Syria, Turkey and Iraq to gain energy rents, strategic access, wealth, and political influence over those governments to enhance its strategic position in Syria. Finally, as long as such opportunities present themselves to Moscow, it is unlikely that it will desist from exploiting this time-honored tactic of imperial aggrandizement and management, even if empire and imperial strategies invariably entail war and risk the security of Putin’s state.
“On seeing our Western coalition partners in the air, we always tailed them, as pilots say, which means a victory in real combat,” a top Russian general said.
Interfax news agency reported that two missiles approaching the Russian-operated Syrian airbase at Khmeimim were shot down by the Pantsir-S1 …
After three years of war to defeat the Islamic State group, Iraq estimates $100 billion is needed to rebuild. So far no one is offering to foot the bill.
The president will soon face a series of deadlines during which he could deliver on a campaign promise to rip up the 2015 agreement.
The family of an Iranian-Swedish researcher sentenced to death in Iran for espionage says he had neither the will, nor the means to share state secrets.
Reports from Ankara say Russia and Turkey have signed a deal under which Russia will supply its S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to Turkey.
DPRK / PRC / WESTPAC Reports
President Donald Trump said Thursday that he is “very disappointed” in China for allegedly selling oil to North Korea, tweeting that the on-again, off-again Trump ally was “caught red handed” allowing oil to be imported by the rogue regime.
US President Donald Trump has claimed China was caught “red handed” transferring oil to North Korean vessels. Beijing rejected the accusations, saying it is adhering to UN sanction rules imposed on the rogue state.
President Donald Trump warned that alleged illicit Chinese oil sales to North Korea may jeopardize a peaceful resolution to the confrontation over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
President Donald Trump tweet-attacked China following reports that Chinese ships improperly transferred oil to North Korean vessels at sea.
The seizure of the Lighthouse Winmore was revealed after President Trump accused China of secretly transferring petroleum to North Korean ships.
In 2017, North Korea made major leaps in its missile technology.
An official in Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Russia could host talks between the United States and North Korea if Moscow is asked to do so.
Russia has accused the United States of violating an arms control treaty by agreeing to supply anti-missile systems to Japan.
Moscow alleges that the missile defense systems violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Russia says a U.S-made Aegis land-based defense system wanted by Japan has attack capabilities and is a treaty violation by the United States.
A decision by Japan to deploy a U.S. missile defense system will damage Moscow’s relations with Tokyo and is a breach by Washington of a landmark arms control treaty, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.
Since it opened in Berlin in 2015, Ferdinand von Schirach’s Terror became a global hit, with hundreds of stagings all around the world, as well as an unending flow of ethical debates in mass media.
Chinese retaliation against Taiwan amid a U.S. military move on North Korea would be an occasion for Beijing to redress two historical wounds inflicted by Washington in 1950 and again in the 1990s.
Missiles that F-35 stealth fighters already carry need only slight tweaks to be able to target ICBMs, an aerial combat expert says.
Caught with others in China.
He takes poison before he can be questioned on the reasons for his escape, a North Korean source says.
Foreign Policy Reports
The global phonies at the United Nations never expected this to happen. But they were warned. Trying to mess with President Donald Trump’s decisions in Israel just cost the U.N. $285 million. Put that in your Christmas stocking.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that rapprochement between Russia and Germany is impossible without Vladimir Putin. "Managing …
Stanislav Yezhov – an aide who works for the Ukrainian cabinet and visited Downing Street earlier this year (pictured) – was detained by the country’s police yesterday.
Stanislav Yezhov has been arrested and accused of treason for passing information to Russian intelligence.
Facebook and Twitter threatened with sanctions in UK ‘fake news’ inquiry – media. Current news and events for 29 December from UNIAN Information Agency
Social media posts from the Ukrainian battlefields have been invaluable in enabling prosecutors in Serbia and Montenegro to prove the illegal military action of their nationals in Ukraine.
BalkanInsight: “Serbs flocked to help Russian ‘brothers'”. View news feed in war news for 28 December from UNIAN Information Agency
Public figures in France have demanded that the Russian propaganda channel Russia Today halted broadcasting, and that the license given to it be …
Ryan spent a week in France earlier this year and was fortunate to meet with Gérard Biard, the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo, the ever-irreverent French
Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, plus Cuba’s need for foreign investment, have opened the door to a stronger Russian presence in Latin America as part of a geopolitical game that smacks of the Cold War.
Once a regional heavyweight, Venezuela is losing allies in its region, causing it to deepen its dependence on China and Russia.
A model of the Sun’s magnetic activity suggests the River Thames may freeze over within two decades, experts say.
Strategy / History / Capability Publications
The new turret shares features found on the formidable Pantsir-S1 air defense system and the Kashtan close-in weapon system it aims to replace.
Russia tested new stealth raincoat, which reduces visibility; it is ‘able to protect the holder from viruses’, – Head of Russia’s Fund for Perspective Researches – Russia develops new stealth raincoat, which reduces visibility – 112.international
Russia tested new stealth raincoat, which reduces visibility; it is ‘able to protect the holder from viruses’, – Head of Russia’s Fund for Perspective Researches
Ewen Montagu wanted to find out the official verdict on Operation Mincemeat, an audacious plan which helped change the course of the war by fooling the Nazis into diverting their troops to the wrong place.
No matter how many times we attacked it, the North Vietnamese transit network remained. In the end, it’s how they won.
AI has moved from the movies to the laboratory, and governments around the world want it in their arsenals. We asked how militaries define it, and how …
The department\’s Project Maven uses machine learning to go through drone video feeds but that\’s just the beginning, Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan said.
William Roper says the military must get better at feeding the voracious learning algorithms that will fight future battles.
Service chiefs are converging on a single strategy for military dominance: connect everything to everything.
UN efforts to limit or regulate military AI may be failing before they even begin.
Beijing is harnessing government and commercial entities in pursuit of a once-in-a-generation technological kingmaker.
Kalashnikov’s upcoming product shows how the US and Russia are on wildly different paths to autonomy.
After four years of nearly fruitless debate, nations are gathering once more to talk AI and autonomous weapons.
Technology is reshaping the global order. America’s diplomats need to start thinking ahead.
Ten minutes before the 2pm news broadcast on June 27, Vitaly Kovach, the editor of Ukraine’s channel 24, stood up and told his staff to immediately unplug their network cables.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity awards four organizations language processing software contracts.
The Army believes it can accelerate the development of a key electronic warfare program, and in the process, provide a road map for how the service might improve acquisition.
It’s a choice of how best to protect the public: Exploit software vulnerabilities to collect intelligence information that may help keep people safe? Or disclose the flaw, letting the software company fix it and protect millions of regular computer users from malicious attacks by hackers?
A Maryland man has pleaded guilty in Chicago federal court to running a hacker-for-hire service that shut down websites and affected people around the world.
I’ve written notes to the subject of this article, Laura Halminen, and to multiple friends in Finland. In my experience, Laura has been a staunch supporter of freedom of the press, is pro-Western and mostly anti-Russian. Full disclosure, we’ve exchanged notes in the past and I’ve found her intelligent and personable. This probably is Finland protecting…
It is almost unheard of for the Chinese foreign ministry to criticize a foreign diplomat, but Clauss is unusually forthright in talking publicly about import curbs, internet controls and other sensitive issues.
A new open-source app, developed in partnership with Edward Snowden, uses an Android smartphone’s sensor arrays to monitor for intruders and inform people needing to
Russian hacker says FSB involved in creation of WannaCry malware. View news feed in world news for 27 December from UNIAN Information Agency
“All the statements in Western media about Russian hackers—that’s all me.”
Ukrainian cyber police block over 1,000 pro-suicide social media groups, stop deadly challenge. Current news and events for 27 December from UNIAN Information Agency
Now I’m intrigued. The article is a bit imprecise, or perhaps Facebook was unclear with the details, but it seems like individuals will be shown which Russian ghost accounts they liked, followed, and perhaps read. If Facebook can do that, it could be amazing. I, personally, identified tons of what seemed like Russian propaganda, but…
Not all users who saw that content, however, can take advantage of a new tool out today.
It’s the first time the former president has given an interview like this since leaving office.
US Domestic Policy Reports
Asked what he did during the French Revolution, Abbe Sieyes replied, “I survived.” Donald Trump can make the same boast. No other political figure has so dominated our discourse. And none, not Joe McCarthy in his heyday in the early ’50s, nor Richard Nixon in Watergate, received such intensive and intemperate coverage and commentary as has our 45th president. Whatever one may think of Trump, he is a leader and a fighter, not a quitter. How many politicians could have sustained the beatings Trump has taken, and remained as cocky and confident?
The year that began with the narrative of Trump-Russia collusion is ending with an unexpected plot twist – the Trump administration is confronting and cracking down on Russia on several fronts, a development drawing praise from some of the president’s biggest critics.
Tillerson has to rally international support for Trump’s more aggressive posture toward Iran and North Korea — if Trump will keep him long e…
President Trump’s national security strategy calls for spreading U.S. influence in the world, but many foreign leaders and diplomats say the administration has ceded leadership on core concerns, from climate change to Middle East peace.
In a secret deal, a French company purchased code from a Kremlin-connected firm, incorporated it into its own software, and hid its existence from the FBI, according to documents and two whistleblower
The president is still Putin-philic. But his administration is taking an increasing hard line toward Moscow. Top Democrats are noticing the shift.
In the space of a week, the Trump administration has named Russia a “rival power,” sanctioned a close Putin ally, and decided to give Ukraine anti-tank weapons to help in its fight against Moscow-backed militias.
President Donald Trump continues to emphasize the potential for cooperation with Russia, but U.S. actions appear to be following a tougher line.
Moscow’s propaganda doesn’t just target our elections. It targets our entire nation.
As foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election continues to be scrutinized by several federal investigations, some say that Russia is still mounting intelligence operations in the U.S. Hari Sreenivasan gets two perspectives from Laura Rosenberger of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and former CIA official John Sipher.
Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell says there's "no doubt" Putin is "fully involved" in the "information operations tactics"
The previous administration reportedly created plans to counter Russian propaganda efforts.
"Foreign governments, overtly or covertly, should not be allowed to play with our democracy," Morell and Rogers write
The United States imposed sanctions against 10 criminal bosses from Russia and the countries of the former USSR, as well as against two companies
Did the Obama administration launch an investigation into the Trump campaign based solely off of unverified political opposition research?
Did the Trump digital operation help Russian trolls target their ads on Facebook? The special counsel wants to find out.
Former FBI Director James Comey is accusing current FBI leadership of bowing to political pressure by reassigning the FBI’s top lawyer.
Request for financial information may be connected to inquiries into possible conspiracy between Trump and Kremlin
As Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation proceeds, NPR’s Scott Simon asks veteran Moscow correspondent Luke Harding how Vladimir Putin manages his relationship with President Trump.
President Trump taunted FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe after the news broke that the beleaguered official would retire in March 2018.
The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election began more than a year ago, and the story has only gotten more complicated. Here are the highlights from NPR.org.
Former Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein spoke out Thursday about why shes the latest target in a congressional inquiry into Russias interference in the 2016 election..12/23/2017 6:29:28AM EST.
Vanity Fair sent liberals into a tizzy this week by posting a video that mocks Hillary Clinton by suggesting New Year’s resolution possibilities for the failed presidential candidate.
If America sees its vigor sapped over time through addiction and domestic fractiousness, then it will be a much weaker challenge on the international stage.
America has not celebrated a peacetime Christmas since the year 2000.
Russian leader claims a big U.S.-NATO buildup on Russia’s borders.
Our national defense establishment is at a critical inflection point. For 25 years after the end of the Cold War, the United States was able to operate as though the era of great power competition was over. That is clearly no longer the case. Now, America must face up to this reality. As we adjust to the new era of great power competition, Washington must be clear-eyed about the cumulative effects of its national defense decisions and indecision over recent years. Persistent counter-terrorism operations have placed enormous burdens on our military. Misplaced priorities and acquisition failures have left the United States without critical defense capabilities to counter increasingly advanced near-peer competitors. Our political leaders have often added to this burden by providing insufficient and unstable defense funding. These and other challenges have produced military readiness and modernization crises that are harming each of our military services and putting the lives of America’s servicemembers at greater risk. The bottom line is this: As a result of the decisions Washington has made — as well as those it has failed to make — America’s military advantage is eroding. This is particularly true when it comes to Russia and China. Both countries continue to rapidly modernize and expand their forces and present significant military challenges to the United States. Both powers could credibly threaten our security, prosperity, and way of life. And while the United States presently maintains an aggregate global military advantage over both countries, it is not unreasonable to assess that Russia or China could soon achieve a regional balance of power in their favor. As David Ochmanek of the RAND Corporation testified early this year to the Senate Armed Services Committee, “U.S. forces could, under plausible assumptions, lose the next war they are called upon to fight.”
In the few days since the White House released its new National Security Strategy, there has been a deluge of analysis, breaking down the document’s contents and predicting its implications. Much has been made of the absence of climate change among specified dangers—a topic prominent in the Obama administration’s 2010 NSS and even more so in the 2015 version. The strategy’s treatment of China—and what it means for the world’s most important geopolitical relationship—has also come under scrutiny. But what does it mean for the Army? To be sure, the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy that will both be informed by this NSS will give a clearer picture. There are examples of past NSS documents that signaled important developments that would deeply impact the Army. For example, the George W. Bush administration’s 2002 strategy prioritized preventing enemies from threatening the United States and its allies with weapons of mass destruction, a clear reference to the chief argument in favor of war with Iraq—a war for which the US Army would shoulder a heavy burden for nearly a decade. But as broad statements of strategy, such foreshadowing is not typical, and doesn’t seem to be the case with this NSS. Indeed, the NSS is not so much a strategy in the doctrinal sense of the word, with clear ends, ways, and means, but rather an aspirational statement of direction. And yet, with only a little inference, there are a few ways in which this NSS is most likely to affect the Army.
When the continuing resolution currently funding the government runs out at midnight on Dec. 22, the Pentagon will have spent 1,096 days under continuing r
Susa Rice’s op-ed attacking Donald Trump’s stewardship of foreign affairs is a searing indictment not of Trump but Barack Obama.
The question we should all be asking at this point is, what other concessions did the Obama administration make that are out there waiting for more bold journalists to uncover?
Politico published a jaw-dropping, meticulously sourced investigative piece this week detailing how the Obama administration had secretly undermined US law enforcement agency efforts to shut down an international drug-trafficking ring run by the terror group Hezbollah. The effort was part of a wider push by the administration to placate Iran and ensure the signing of the nuclear deal. Now swap out “Trump” for “Obama” and “Russia” for “Iran” and imagine the eruption these revelations would generate. Because, by any conceivable journalistic standard, this scandal should’ve triggered widespread coverage and been plastered on front pages across the country. By any historic standard, the scandal should elicit outrage regarding the corrosion of governing norms from pundits and editorial boards.
By dropping charges against major arms targets, the administration infuriated Justice Department officials — and undermined its own counterproliferation task forces.
Who wants egg on their face?