Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
Note the very first line, the Troll Factory in St. Petersburg has tripled staff.
NATO / EU / Russia Reports:
- Europeans reacting to Russian propaganda attacks, after Russian triples staff in “Troll Factory”, DFRLab on RT;
- USAF heavies to deploy to Baltic states for EX;
- Iranian protesters shout ‘Death to Russia’ – if Iran folds, expect style Libyan blowback;
- Shmelyev on Russian agendas in Ukraine, while Ukrainians debate whether to follow Baltic States and declare Soviet Era to be period of occupation (they should actually extend that back 325 years);
- More bizarre statements from Moscow;
- Baltic reactions to Russia;
- Latynina on Russia’s faithless allies;
- Will the UK merge its Marines and Paras?
Russia / Russophone Reports:
- Belkovsky on Putin’s paranoia following “dozens” of assassination attempts (likely explained away as Western plots);
- Russia’s fake election reports;
- Chekists as corrupt bunglers;
- Russian (Oprichniki) Guard forms rapid reaction units to put down public unrest – likely motivated by events in Iran;
- Russia’s failed defence recapitalisation planning;
- Russia’s Reserve Fund ran out last December – later than expected, Welfare Fund next to be stripped;
- Multiple reports on Russia’s descent into the abyss;
- Belarusians attempt to blackmail resident Ukrainians to spy on their country;
Transnistria / Moldova Reports:
- Multiple reports on legislation and appointments passed while Putinist Dodon is suspended by Constitutional Court;
- Major reaction to Putin’s “offer” to return derelict Ukrainian equipment from Crimea – likely done to impress gullible EU politicians since nobody in Ukraine is buying it;
- Excellent essay and analysis of the “Croatian Scenario” [Operation Storm] applied to Ukraine;
- Javelin training commences;
- Donbass fires continue;
Russia / Iran / Syria / Iraq / OEF Reports:
- Nuclear debate continues;
- MWI on Iran’s exploitation of fanaticism;
- Pahlavi’s popularity in Iran increasing due to UK based diaspora TV channel;
- Tehran making direct threats against the US (again);
- Russians brag about killing RPV launch team using Krasnopol LGAP – do we even know whether they got the real target?
- Russian Forpost [IAI Searcher] shot down by Syrian rebels [means undisclosed, multiple reports in 2017 indicated that rebels repaired an operated multiple captured SA-8B GECKO SHORADS suitable for this purpose];
DPRK / PRC / WESTPAC Reports:
- IMINT indicates tunnelling for another nuke test;
- Retired RoK General Chun on the intensive fanaticism of DPRK troops and regime followers, which he compares to Islamists – Imperial Japan WW2 is a better model, since it was likely the actual template Kim Il Sung used in 1945, as all Koreans were exposed to it (ergo those invested in the regime could behave like the Japanese did on Saipan, Iwo, Okinawa etc including civilian mass suicides and kamikaze attacks which Chun argues);
- Jackson on possible “limited” strike outcomes;
- Martin details DPRK nuclear effort based on his past visits;
Foreign Policy Reports:
- Rohac on naivete of European policies on Iran and Russia (actually not as much naive as paid for via bought off industrial and political lobbies);
- Illiberalism and Russian influence ops in EU;
- Multiple reports on German politics, German industry violating sanctions (i.e. corruption), and German tolerance of Islamists;
- Will Putinist Zeman win the Czech election again? (some public exposure of his Russian associates might be of value);
- More on Russian hacking, and NotPetya malware attack in Europe;
- More on social media;
- Smithsonian on Hitler’s fakery;
- More Cohen Russia advocacy;
US Domestic Policy Reports:
- New US nuclear policy, and soon to be released military strategy;
- MWI on accountability in Intel agencies;
- Excellent essay by Nichols on the rejection of expertise by the Western public (based on his superb book The Death of Expertise – Tom Nichols – Oxford University Press ; The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters – Kindle edition by Tom Nichols. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. ) – after countless arguments with witless morons immersed in the Dunning-Kruger effect this work gets a huge endorsement with one qualifier – the problem is globalised and not unique to the USA;
- Multiple reports on Russian meddling in the 2016 election;
- DCI interview on Fox TV;
- Deripaska sues Manafort over $18.9M lent and not repaid;
NATO / EU / Russia Reports
The plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg will discuss next week on Wednesday the issue of Russian propaganda, an official representative of the European Parliament, Marjorie Van den Broek, said at a briefing in Brussels on Friday. Each month one of the political factions has the opportunity to choose the actual topic for debates. This time the EPP [European People’s Party] faction, has chosen the topic “Russia and the influence of Russian propaganda in the European Union countries, Van den Broek said. The debate is scheduled for January 17, in the afternoon, she said.
The infamous Russian troll factory also known as Internet Research Agency (IRA) has been reportedly run by Putin’s ally Yevgeny Prigozhin in the Russian city of Saint-Petersburg. Fow years, the agency has been pushing pro-Russian narratives to promote the Kremlin’s interests in the world attempting to influence domestic policy and public opinion in the E.U., U.S.A., Ukraine, and other countries, or just supporting opposite extreme opinions to sow chaos in target countries. To achieve its goals, the troll factory employed fake accounts registered on major social networks, online media sites, and on video hosting services. And now it looks like the factory is far from set to be closed in the New Year and its employees would even have better working conditions in 2018.
Since September, the Kremlin has been up in arms over the United States’ decision to register Russian state broadcaster RT (formerly “Russia Today”, motto “Question more”) as a “foreign agent”. Top…
Since 2018, Estonia's expenditures aimed at combating misinformation and propaganda will be increased by 13.3 times – from 60,000 to 800,000 …
Russia will not send its delegation to the upcoming session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to be held on 22-26 …
The Air Forces of the United States and Lithuania plan to hold a joint exercise in Lithuanian airspace in which American bomber jets will …
Russian war games held last September “simulated a large-scale military attack against Nato“, the commander of the Estonian Defence Forces has claimed. Riho Terras confirmed Nato’s fears that the Zapad (or “West”) exercises were used to simulate a conflict with the US-led alliance and show off Russia’s ability to amass large numbers of troops at extremely short notice in the event of a conflict.
RUSSIA “simulated a large-scale military attack against Nato” last September,the commander of the Estonian Defence Forces has claimed.
Estonian Defence Forces General Riho Terras has confirmed that Russia’s massive programme of war games featuring tens of thousands of troops in September simulated an attack against Nato.
In 2017, fighter aircraft from the Baltic Air Patrol mission deployed in Lithuania and Estonia escorted more Russian military aircraft flying …
The Air Force on Friday released a video showing two recent instances in which F-15s deployed to Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, intercepted Russian Navy Su-30 Flankers near the Baltics.
The short but intense montage shows off various ships and their missiles, guns, close-in protection systems, and more.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – Perhaps the most unexpected slogans of the masses of Iranians who have gone into the streets to protest the repressive regime of the ayatollahs, Andrey Zubov says, is “Death to Russia!” But while unjust if taken literally, these words in fact reflect the widespread understanding among Iranians that Moscow is the main backer of Tehran’s tyranny. The Iranians are not Russophobes, the Russian historian who teaches in Georgia says. They simply want to call attention to the fact that “Russia is the main ally of the clerical regime of the ayatollahs they hate” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/01/05/75075-shahskiy-rezhim-okazalsya-chelovechnee-chem-rezhim-ayatoll). “Russia is waging war in Syria together with Iran. Russia is supplying nuclear and rocket technologies to Iran. Russia supports the anti-Western position of Iran,” Zubov continues; and given “the unending flow of caskets” coming back from Syria, “it is difficult for the demonstrators to see that the Kremlin regime that is doing this is one thing and Russia another.” There are many in Russia “who would like the restoration of democracy, an end to foreign aggression and rapprochement with the countries of the West,” the historian syas. And if the Iranian protesters come out with slogans like ‘Not Gaza, Not Syria, Not Lebanon – Our country is Iran!” then ours should be ‘Hands Off Ukraine!’ and ‘Stop Helping Asad’s regime!’” Zubov says he is confident that Iranians will soon make the distinction between the Kremlin and Russia, but whether they will be able to liberate themselves from the power of the ayatollahs which they imposed on themselves in 1978-1979 just as Russians did the Bolsheviks in 1917-1922 is still unclear.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 11 – The main reason Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea and the Donbass, Aleksandr Shmelyev says, is that he feared that the ideas that had animated Ukrainians at the time of the Maidan would spread into Russia and become the basis of a similar challenge to himself. To prevent that, he acted as he did so as to alienate the two nations from each other. As a result, the former Vzglyad editor and longtime Putin critic says, Russians and Ukrainians viewed each other as the enemy and any contacts between them that might have been the way “Ukrainian” ideas would spread into Russia were effectively blocked (dsnews.ua/world/esli-putinu-nado-budet-sbrosit-atomnuyu-bombu-na-moskvu–09012018220000). That rather than simply presenting himself as the latest “ingatherer of the Russian lands” or thumbing his nose at the West, Shmelyev continues, explains why Putin has done what he has done in the way that he has because his goal at all times is to defend his position lest being forced out of it he might be charged with an enormous number of crimes. “Putin couldn’t allow” either the spread of ideas from Ukraine into Russia that might challenge him or the risk that he would be ousted from power and face justice, the commentator says. “Therefore, he had to immediately break off ‘low-level’ contacts be tween the residents of our two countries.” “I am certain,” he continues, “that this was the first and main motive behind everything that followed: The task was to get the two peoples into a fight with each other.” To that end, Putin was prepared to use all kinds of propaganda and to engage in massive acts of violence against Ukrainians. And he did everything he could to ensure that “as a result of the war, Ukraine would not be able to become an attractive example for Russians.” Many seek to understand Putin as a geopolitician or as a national leader, but in fact, he is a criminal who is only seeking to ensure he and his group stay in power. That should have been clear to everyone when he orchestrated the blowing up of apartment blocks in Moscow in 1999, Shmelyev says. And they should also have recognized that Putin doesn’t seem himself opposed to the West as he understands it. In his view, all democratic institutions in the West “are merely decorations as they are in Russia,” but “better hidden.” Given this, the analyst continues, it is naïve to think the regime can be changed by a new round of sanctions or anything else. It can only be contained and then removed. The people do not really support it: they seek “escape” from politics and only want to survive. But those around Putin who have been infected by his values back him as a matter of survival. They too can’t afford for him to leave because they know that once he goes so will they as Russian then will have to come up with a new system with new rules of the game.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 8 – Since communism collapsed in Eastern Europe in 1989 and in the Soviet space in 1991, those countries which recognized the communist period as one of foreign occupation have been far more successful in breaking with the past than have those who viewed the Soviet/communist period as part of their national histories. The countries which had been members of the Warsaw Pact in almost every case viewed their communist periods as an occupation by the Soviet Union, as did Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whom the Soviets had viewed as legitimately part of the USSR but whom the citizens of the three and most Western governments did not. The Russian Federation and the former Yugoslavia in contrast saw the communist system as one their ancestors had established and did not break with it, and the other former Soviet republics generally went along lest they spark anger in Moscow or within significant parts of their populations. (There were some intermediate cases, like Azerbaijan, which viewed itself as the continuation of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic suppressed by Soviet troops but did not explicitly label the Soviet period as an occupation. Over time, several other post-Soviet states have moved in that direction.). A major reason that some in these countries are thinking about declaring the Soviet period an occupation is that they can see that those countries which have done so have found it far easier to dispense with the communist past. Few, despite Russian obsessions, have expected that they would ever receive compensation. Now, this issue has been joined in Ukraine. Vladimir Vyatrovich, the head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, has declared that Ukraine must recognize the period it was within the USSR as “’an occupation’” by the Soviet regime in Moscow (ura.news/news/1052319006). According to the historian, the Ukrainian government needs to declare itself the legal successor of the Ukrainian Peoples Republic which existed between 1917 and 1921. If it does so, Vyatrovich says, it will be easier for Ukrainians to see that they were occupied by a foreign power between 1921 and 1991 and easier too to dispense with things that power imposed. Not surprisingly, his proposal has sparked outrage in Moscow and among some in Ukraine who say it is “fake” history and as a prelude to Ukraine making demands for reparations. (See ru.sputniknewslv.com/columnists/20180108/6968916/prizrak-okkupacii-ukraine-latvia.html,stockinfocus.ru/2018/01/08/mif-o-sovetskoj-okkupacii-vzorvyot-ukrainu/ and svpressa.ru/politic/article/190013.) And also not surprisingly, Vyatrovich’s proposal almost certainly will be opposed by other countries and by many in Ukraine as a step that would only make resolving issues arising out of the Russian Federation’s Anschluss of Crimea and continuing intervention in the Donbass more difficult. But the historian’s idea contains within it more than a kernel of truth; and consequently, even if it is not adopted officially as it is unlikely to be, it will inform the thinking of ever more Ukrainians and may make it easier for them to press for those steps necessary to escape the system that Moscow in fact did impose upon their ancestors.
The U.S. Secretary of State says the countries are committed to improving relations, – 112
Moscow is not interested in "freezing" the conflict in the Donbas and after its settlement, Russian-Ukrainian relations should warm up, as …
While Washington is preparing additional penalties, Moscow is bracing its economy and reaching out to the Asia-Pacific and Middle East.
U.S. preparing to deal a heavy blow on Russia – private intel firm. View news feed in news about politics for 05 January from UNIAN Information Agency
Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – In mid-November 1916, Kadet leader Pavel Milyukov posed a question which is increasingly being heard in countries today. Confronted with government policies that represent a betrayal of national interests and even a surrender to enemies, Milyukov and those who follow him now asked “is this stupidity or is this treason?”Now it is the turn of the Lithuanians. In an essay for the Grani portal today, Grigory and Marina Tregubov call attention to the emergence of a deep and very public split in the Lithuanian government over how best to deal with the aggressive Russian Federation of Vladimir Putin (graniru.org/Politics/World/Europe/m.266759.html). Earlier this week, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis called for the renewal of work by the Lithuanian-Russian intergovernmental commission, which has not met since October 2011. Skvernelis said that the lack of dialogue with the Russian side “harms the interests of the state and its citizens.” President Dalia Grybauskaitė immediately responded, calling his remarks “irresponsible.” Contacts with friendly countries are always a good thing, but Russia routinely violates international law, has invaded its neighbors, and is conducting “a military, information and cyber attack towards others.” “It would be naïve to think,” she said, “that economic relations with this country are possible and separate from politics [because] Russia has always used its energy, trade and other instruments to exert pressure and influence on other countries. [Lithuania’s] experience only confirms this,” the Lithuanian leader said. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius supported her. Skvernelis responded by saying that he “completely shares the position of the president on sanctions, the situation in the Donbass, the annexation of Crimea and ‘the aggressive rhetoric’ of Moscow.” But, he continued, “to have political contacts at lower levels is something that we are obligated to maintain.” The Tregubovs asked Žygimantas Pavilionis, a Conservative member of the Lithuanian parliament, former ambassador to Washington and one of the initiators of the Lithuanian Magnitsky Law to explain what is going on in Vilnius. In Vilnius, he explained, there is something called “’the Lithuanian consensus,’” a position that all the parties, right, left and center agree to; and that consensus dictates that “it is impossible to renew a dialogue with Russia on the former basis until Moscow fulfills certain conditions,” including withdrawal from Crimea and other oblasts of Ukraine. “As long as Russia doesn’t observe the principles of international law,” Pavilionis said,,, “we cannot renew normal dialogue with her. Skvernelis violated that consensus and has now been called up short by the president and foreign minister who under the constitution are responsible for foreign affairs. It is likely that the prime minister was focusing on domestic elections and sought to distract attention from his own failure to implement promised reforms. “In essence,” Pavilionis said, “his policy is entirely populist, and populists always seek new scandals” to distract attention from problems and attract attention to themselves. According to the deputy, “this was a very stupid step,” one that will be rejected by all parties in the parliament. And then, he continued, “the prime minister will understand that he has committed a mistake and simply wasn’t able to ‘widely remain silent’ at the right time.” In short, the Lithuanian consensus will hold. And that consensus will involve not only refraining from talking to Russia until Russia shows it can be a responsible interlocutor but also stepping up the pressure on Moscow by expanding the Magnitsky List and continuing to serve as a refuge for those Russians forced to flee from repression. “At one time,” Pavilionis said, “many Lithuanians were forced to leave Lithuania. And we still remember this time. We understand how serious this question is for people who want to live in a free country,” and we want to support those in Russia who want it to be a free and law-abiding state. “This question in fact is very important,” the former ambassador said. “I myself saw Soviet tanks around the TV tower in Vilnius. My friends died there. And I understand how in Russia, which was then still in the Soviet Union, people came out in large demonstrations” against the Kremlin’s policies. “Russians ethnic and not struggled for our freedom,” Pavilionis said. “You rescued us then. Now, the time has come and we must show you our solidarity not only in words but in our actions.”
Paul Goble Staunton, January 7 – Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia’s justice minister, says that Tallinn is considering dismantling the Soviet war memorial at Maarjamäe on the seacoast between the center of the capital and Pirita because there is a risk that the facility, including a 35-meter obelisk, is at risk of collapsing. To save the monument, which many Estonians have long referred to as “the dream of the impotent,” would cost at least a million euros (1.3 million US dollars), money that officials feel could be better spent on other things, especially since none of the installations are especially noteworthy or meaningful for Estonians (belaruspartisan.org/politic/411778/). The memorial complex consists of several monuments. The most prominent is the tall obelisk which was raised by the Soviets in honor of the Ice Campaign by which in 1918, Red soldiers of the Baltic Fleet were able to break through the German blockade and deliver critical cargo to the Soviet base at Kronshtadt (lenta.ru/news/2018/01/06/memorial/). Build around that obelisk in advance of the Olympics in 1980, when the sailing competitions occurred off the Estonian coast, is a memorial in stone that recalls the eternal flames set up in many Soviet cities and remaining in Russian ones today. During Soviet times, military parades in Tallinn were staged there. Reinsalu did not say when Tallinn might take action, but many will be waiting to see Moscow’s reaction, given how harshly it responded when the Estonian authorities in 2007 moved the Soviet “bronze soldier” from in front of the National Library to a military cemetery. (Seewindowoneurasia.blogspot.com/2007/05/window-on-eurasia-does-bronze-soldier.html). If Moscow responds harshly, that will of course please some Russian nationalists but further inflame Estonian anger; if the Russian capital doesn’t, that will be a signal that Moscow today doesn’t want to refight a monument war in Tallinn, an indication that it has concluded it has more to lose by doing so than by not.
Brussels claims meat restrictions on European exports to Russia were politically motivated.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 7 – “Russia has no allies, except perhaps for Armenia which of course is not the most influential country in the world,” Yuliya Latynina says. But “we have countries which use us, in particular Iran and North Korea, each of which “without consequences” ignores the interests of Russia. On her Access Code program yesterday, the Russian commentator now living abroad points out that “Iran calls us ‘the little Satan,’” and North Korea doesn’t both “to warn us about the launches of its rockets and from time to time even seized some Russian commercial ships” (echo.msk.ru/programs/code/2123728-echo/). She says that it should be “a surprising thing that these people use us and we don’t use them.” In the past, their use took the form of having us “block very anti-Korean and anti-Iranian resolutions at the United Nations. Now, it is expressed by our fighting to support Hezbollah in Syria” whether that is in Russia’s interests or not. Latynina is one of the most prominent commentators on the Russian media scene, and her words are a clear sign that ever more Russians are less than impressed by the Kremlin’s bombastic suggestions that it is going from strength to strength in foreign affairs and that Vladimir Putin’s adventure in Syria is raising more questions than support.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 9 – Over the new year’s holiday, the Russian navy dispatched 70 of its ships on deep-water assignments, the largest number ever since at least Soviet times. But the routes of two of these ships, an oceanographic research vessel and a corvette, suggest Moscow is “secretly” preparing to open a new base in Sudan on the Red Sea, Sergey Ishchenko says. Both of them passed through the Red Sea, the military analyst continues, and their ostensible missions don’t justify their presence so far from home. But their routes do make sense if one considers Vladimir Putin’s meeting in Sochi with the Sudanese president at the end of November (svpressa.ru/war21/article/189913/). Omar Hasan Ahmed al-Bashir seldom travels abroad because of charges against him in the International Criminal Court, but Russia hasn’t signed the Treaty of Rome and so he could come to Russia without fear. Moreover, to underscore how important his presence was, Putin dispatched a Russian jet to Khartoum to bring him to Sochi. In the course of the talks, as was widely reported, al-Bashir offered Russia the opportunity to open a Russian base in Syria. That would give Russia leverage on a key sea artery, leverage that it lost when it pulled out of the Soviet base that had existed in Sudan between 1977 and 1991. Until recently, only four countries had bases on the shores of the Red Sea, the US, France, Britain and Italy. Japan is building a facility there which it doesn’t call a base but which is one in all but name, Ishchenko says; and China has established its very first military base abroad there. In 2012, Russia reached an agreement with Djibouti to open a base there, “but in 2014, the Ukrainian crisis broke out. Washington insisted that the Djibouti authorities must not allow Russians” to open a base, the Moscow analyst says. And the government of that country “humbly bowed to that demand.” The Russian government didn’t give up on the idea of having a base on the Red Sea and began to focus on Sudan. “Sudan of course is not Djibouti. From the entrance to the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean it is significantly further. On the other hand, it is closer to Suez.” And given present-day weaponry the difference in location is not so significant. In Sochi, al-Bashir talked about Port Sudan as the natural site; but another possibility would have been the island of Suaqin had Turkish Presient Redjep Erdogan not secured in December, after the Putin-Bashin talks an agreement with the Sudanese for a Turkish presence there for 99 years. The dispatch of the two Russian ships to the region just before and just after the meeting in Sochi suggests that they were related to the discussions there, especially since no Russian ship of the 23800 class has ever sailed as far away from its base as it did on this occasion. The defense ministry only said that it was headed toward the Indian Ocean. But of course, if that is the case, Ishchenko says, it would have to pass by Port Sudan. And the second ship contained a unit of special forces, an unusual move for the Russian navy, especially if the ship in question was only to be involved in an international exercise. It too passed by Port Sudan. Putting these various clues together, the military commentator says, suggests that Moscow is moving “secretly” to establish a base in Sudan on the Red Sea lest someone else try to block it as happened in 2014.
Military chiefs have drawn up a plan to cut the armed forces by more than 14,000 and combine elite units of paratroopers and Royal Marines to save money, The Ti
For the US and NATO forces, getting around Europe can be a headache.
Russia / Russophone Reports
Paul Goble Staunton, January 7 – Officially, Vladimir Putin has been the target of 14 assassination attempts, Stanislav Belkovsky says; unofficially, there have been dozens. But those who tried or been accused of trying to kill the Kremlin leader have all without exception either died during the investigation or “ended their lives and carrier in psychiatric special hospitals.” However, the most important consequence of these attacks, the Russian commentator says, is their impact on Putin’s paranoia and policies. After what the Russian security services said was an assassination attempt at the time of the Sochi Olympiad, Putin changed course toward the West (echo.msk.ru/programs/agent_provocateur/2123708-echo/). That, combined with the failure of Western leaders to attend the Olympiad and the victory of the Maidan in Ukraine, Belkovsky says, led Putin to drop plans to seek improved relations with the West he’d been considering and adopt the hard line that led to the Crimean Anschluss, efforts at regime change in Montenegro, and Internet attacks on Western elections. “One must say,” he continues, “that in totalitarian societies and in countries with totalitarian regimes, an attack [on the leader] is the only means of changing the powers that be if the attack is successful.” And “in Russia, there are no democratic institutions. Everything depends on one man.” “If, God forbid and may God give him health and many more years of life, something were to happen to [Putin], then the regime would never be the same and the country would never be the same either.” Understanding that, he says, explains why the regime “constantly and hysterically is increasing the number of guards” to ensure “the security of the Russian president.”
Aleksey Shaburov, a Yekaterinburg commentator, says that people are making a mistake treating the March 2018 voting as if it were a real election. It isn’t, and he offers ten things to remember because that is the reality in Russia today. They are: 1. The presidential elections are not about deciding the question of power. That question has already been decided and Vladimir Putin will remain in office at least another six years. But that doesn’t mean the voting won’t have other consequences including the redistribution of posts depending on how well officials deliver the percentages the Kremlin wants. 2. Any strategy that is directed at affecting the outcome of the vote is “senseless and condemned to defeat.” For example, “a boycott will lower the rate of participation but raise the percentage of the victor.” In other words, “the authorities will be able to come out the winner from any ‘protest’ strategy.” No one except the powers that be has “any electoral resources.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin again denied persistent allegations that Moscow has interfered in election campaigns in the United States and European countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has alleged that anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny is being supported by the United States in his election bid.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – The KGB and its predecessors were not the highly disciplined professionals and successful managers Vladimir Putin wants Russians to believe, according to a new book on the organs between 1917 and 1941. Instead, they were as roguish and criminal as any security service in history. Instead, historian Aleksey Teplyakov writes in his new book, The Activity of the Organs of the Cheka-GPU-NKVD (1917-1941) (Novosibirsk, in Russian), they were “unprofessional and acted primarily with the help of terror and torture, the use of a mass of agents in the population, extra-judicial courts, and the widespread use of forced labor” (sibreal.org/a/28952810.html). Moreover, the Soviet secret police took care of their own, who suffered far less seriously than those on whom they inflicted suffering, not having 20,000 of their officers executed during the Great Terror as some now claim but rather a tenth or even less than number, Teplyakov says the archives show. The Soviet secret services, the historian told Svoboda’s Dmitry Volchek, “are now again in power and do not want that outsiders study their history. The archives are closing for researchers, the length of classification is being extended, and recently ever more loudly voices are being heard directly or indirectly justified [their] crimeas.” That makes the study of these agencies now especially important, Teplyakov says. And thanks to Ukraine’s decision to open the Soviet intelligence service archives in its possession, researchers can do a great deal. Now, so many are travelling to Kyiv to research them that the biggest problem is that the reading room for them is too small – only ten desks. Among the many details Teplyakov provides in the course of this 2500-word interview, the following is especially intriguing. He notes that in January 1937, there were 25,000 state secruty officers. More than 70 percent were removed by 1940, but “only part of them were repressed.” Most were given other, lesser jobs in the GULAR. Fewer than 2,000 were executed. Besides the trope that the chekists suffered the way the population did, another falsehood now widely promoted is that all the officers were like Dzerzhinsky. In fact, the historian says, in the initial period, many of its operatives were recruited from the criminal element of society and they carried their values into their new work, including a propensity for sadism. Another point Teplyakov makes is “the further from the center, as a rule, the more cruel and uncontrolled were the chekists. This relates to Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.” When the center was weak, the chekists away from Moscow behaved in the most horrific way, often frightening the party they were supposed to serve. He also observes that one of the reasons “serious repressions were stopped immediately after the death of Stalin” was the fear that the organs might be used against his successors. But perhaps Teplyakov’s most important observation concerns how the Soviet traditions of the chekists continue to this day. Like their predecessors, he says, “present-day special servies do not always consider it necessary to be bound by the law, actively engage in political actions, and this interferes with the development of civil society.” Moreover, he continues, the special services are viewed as being so important that they are far more actively used than they need to be. “The prospects in this sense aren’t really very happy ones.” Studying the past of these organs is one way, Teplyakov says, to fight this dangerous trend.
Vitali Shkliarov writes that while Putin may win re-election in March, there is a growing and vocal mass of Russians who are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo.
A leaked Kremlin document says creating a holiday-like atmosphere on election day in March could help boost voter turnout
ON MY MIND Will 2018 be the year when Vladimir Putin and the so-called “collective Putin” part ways? In a piece featured below, political commentator Konstantin Gaaze argues that it may be. According to Gaaze, Russia’s ruling regime is composed of a “day shift” and a “night shift” — that is, formal institutions and the informal relationships among Putin’s closest courtiers. When the regime is consolidated, these two systems work in sync and are mutually reinforcing. When it is not, they work at cross purposes. “As Putin gets ready to serve a fourth presidential term from next March,” Gaaze writes, “the main question facing Russia is whether these shadowy nighttime rulers will obey the orders of a leader whose time in office is beginning to expire, or whether they will act as freelancers, ignoring the man who created the authoritarian system that they make use of.” The corruption trial of former Economics Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev, the revocation of The European University of St. Petersburg’s license, and the lawsuits against the Sistema Financial Corporation, he notes, are all examples of freelancing inside the Kremlin court. Whether Putin re-asserts his authority over the system, or whether the freelancing escalates to the point of destabilizing the regime, is one of the key things to look for going forward this year.
ON MY MIND The two-week stretch spanning New Year’s, Orthodox Christmas, and Old New Year’s is traditionally quiet in Russia and this year is no exception. The news coming out of Moscow has pretty much slowed down to a trickle. But this year, with a presidential election — and a new political season — looming the quiet holiday season has the feeling of the calm before the storm. And Kremlin-watchers are taking advantage of the calm to assess the state of play in Putin’s court. The debate continues about whether or not Vladimir Putin is becoming a “lame duck” and what that might mean for the elite (see Mark Galeotti’s piece featured below). The repercussions of Aleksei Ulyukayev’s conviction for bribery, the first of a sitting minister since the 1950s, and what it signifies, continue to reverberate (see Maxim Trudolyubov’s piece below). The speculation about where Russia’s political system is headed is intensifying (see Anton Shirikov’s piece below, as well as Konstantin Gaaze’s article and Gleb Pavlovsky’s interview in yesterday’s Morning Vertical). Many questions remain going forward. But one thing appears clear. Politics is returning to Russia — court politics as evidenced by the intramural elite struggles highlighted by the Ulyukayev case; and street politics, illustrated by Aleksei Navalny’s stubborn perseverance as an opposition figure. 2018 promises to be a highly consequential year in Russia. So enjoy the quiet while it lasts — because it won’t last long.
The nighttime rulers of the regime are quietly challenging Putin’s role
Russia’s political leaders attended Christmas services as the country marked the holiday according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar. President Vladimir Putin came to the Church of Saints Simeon and Ann in St. Petersburg on the night of January 6 to 7 while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana chose the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, where the Christmas liturgy was led by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. (Channel One TV via Reuters)
The Russian Supreme Court has upheld its decision to reject an appeal by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny against a decision to bar him from running in Russia’s 2018 presidential election.
Michael Wolff’s incendiary book would have been impossible in Moscow, and that’s something for Americans to appreciate.
Technically speaking, lobbying doesn’t exist in Russia. The concept, at least, isn’t established anywhere in the country’s laws, and the activity itself isn’t formally regulated in any way. On December 18, just the latest business association encouraged the parliament to rectify this situation, though previous efforts like this one have always come to nothing. There are, nevertheless, many people in Russia who earn a living by mediating between the country’s state and businesses, defending the interests of entrepreneurs and campaigning for the legislation they consider necessary. Some of these people use legal methods, while others — the so-called “fixers” — resort to money, connections, and even threats. Meduza special correspondent Taisiya Bekbulatova learned more about these individuals to understand how Russian lobbying really works.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 9 – Konstantin Yurchenko, an economist at the Urals Federal University, has sparked controversy by suggesting that the generation born between 1965 and 1975 who came of age in the 1990s and assimilated the values of that decade is the major source of Russia’s current problems. Yurchenko says that during that decade “they learned to steal, kill, deceive, take and give bribes,” all values that they have passed on to the next generation. Now, they are the dominant age-group among managers and officials and until 80 percent of them pass from the scene, Russia will have problems (ura.news/news/1052319106 and ura.news/articles/1036273498). His “macro-economic” observations delivered in a lecture in Yekaterinburg might have remained an intriguing but obscure curiosity had it not been for the fact that Moscow television host Vladimir Solovyev (DOB: 1963) picked it up and denounced it in his program and online (ura.news/news/1052319106). Solovyev was furious, taking personal and generational affront at Yurchenko’s observations and sparking debate in various places in Russia. The anger of members of this powerful generation has become so great, the economist says, that while he hasn’t had any problems with his job yet, he expects “conversations” in the near future. According to the economist, he drew his conclusions on the basis of research into management styles and offered it to the public in the hope that Russians will rely on older generations who remember things before everything went off the track in the 1990s and on younger generations who have grown up in different times. But if he is right, the youngest members of what might be called the generation of the wild 1990s won’t pass from the scene until the middle of the 2030s, leaving them ample time to cause more problems for Russia and making it even more difficult than many imagine to turn the corner.
President Vladimir Putin says the minimum wage in Russia will be raised on May 1, as he steps up his campaign for the March presidential election.
Moscow authorities have once again removed an improvised memorial near the Kremlin where Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in 2015.
Russian President Vladimir Putin helped usher in the Orthodox Christmas at services at the Church of Saints Simeon and Anna in St. Petersburg.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 10 – Vladimir Putin’s Russian Guard has announced plans to subordinate a variety of elite special forces, including the OMON, SOBR, OSpN,, and USpN, under a single command that will be capable of dispatching them to any part of Russia to put down disorders. Izvestiya today reports that this new force will also have its own independent air power, thereby making it independent of the interior ministry on which it had to rely for this service elsewhere (iz.ru/680237/bogdan-stepovoi-aleksei-ramm-evgenii-andreev/rosgvardiia-sobiraet-elitnye-chasti-v-kulak). Some military experts say that “the concentration of the spetsnaz of the Russian guard in a single fist will increase its mobility and effectiveness,” the Moscow paper says. But others are divided about this move, with some saying it will improve coordination among these various units while others insist that it will only create “an unnecessary bureaucratic superstructure.” Much of what is going on may be nothing more than the growing pains of Putin’s new security force, but Izvestiya notes that “OMON officers say that there already are problems with inter-agency coordination of the Russian Guard and the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” especially with regard to its possible support of police actions. This new force may also come in conflict with the FSB which at present has primary responsibility for combatting terrorism, and so the reform sets the stage for more infighting at the top. But it is possible that the new force will allow the Kremlin to act more quickly and effectively if protests become violent. Training will be standardized and the new forces will be far more mobile than any hitherto. Vladislav Shurygin, a military expert, says that the new forces “can be quickly and effectively shifted to various regions and address there a wide variety of tasks: the struggle with mass disorders, the arrest of criminals and terrorists, and the performance of special ops.”
Russian defense budget is classified, unlike in the U.S., EU member states countries and Ukraine, where such documents are frankly discussed and endorsed in a transparent manner. In the Russian case, there is a practice traditional for totalitarian regimes, the same as applied in China and the DPRK: when their defense budget is published, no one can know for sure whether it is about the actual figures or simply created to manipulate people. And precisely because most of the expenditures in the Russian defense budget are classified, hidden (not only from us, foreign observers, but also from own citizens), we have enough grounds to suggest that the published figures are false, so we can simply pay no attention to them. Instead, we should carefully analyze the expenditures of Russia’s defense budget, which we saw at the end of 2017. The reality is that Russia’s Rearmament Program, adopted in 2011-2012 and drawn until 2020, has failed. It is already clear that the program objectives have not been achieved. After all, it had been adopted before Russia started its war against Ukraine, amid high oil prices. Today, after the war against Ukraine began and sanctions were imposed, which allegedly “do not affect Russia” (spoiler: they do, especially its defense industry) the situation has changed drastically.
In an official press release, The Russian Ministry of Finance has stated that that Russia’s Reserve Fund was completely depleted in December 2017 …
Why would an Orthodox bishop with close ties to Putin hint at an old anti-Semitic canard to explain the murder of the last czar’s family?
The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore. Consequently, Windows on Eurasia each week presents a selection of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 113th such compilation, and it is again a double issue with 26 from Russia and 13 from Russia’s neighbors. Even then, it is far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – Russian commentator Aleksandr Nemets was much criticized for an article last month that suggested Russians were consuming 10 to 15 percent fewer calories than they had only four years ago, a figure that directly challenged official Rosstat claims to the contrary (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A3A4FB908A5D). Now, he has assembled new data from Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (dcenter.hse.ru/data/2017/12/05/1161509137/indbas_17-10.pdf) which not only confirm his earlier statements but suggest that the situation with regard to food consumption and poverty is even worse than he had indicated (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A4F720228C8E). The HSE data show that Russian food purchases after rising on an index where the figure in 2000 was 100 to 111.5 in 2013 have now fallen to 97, a drop right in the middle of Nemets’ own calculations in the earlier article. But other figures offered by HSE indicate that the situation is more dire than that general number. They show that consumption of food products in Russia between 2013 and 2017 fell by 14 to 15 percent, and “as usual in such circumstances,” Russians cut back in the first instance “meat, cheese and other quality products with a high protein content,” replacing them with low calorie products like bread, potatoes, and illegal alcohol. On the basis of those figures, Nemets says, one can calculate that “the average calorie level consumed by the population of the Russian Federation fell by at least 15 percent from about 3100 calories in 2013 to 2700 in 2017 and consumption of protein fell by 20 percent or more from about 100 grams to 80.” Exacerbating this situation, he continues, has been a level of inflation that is two to three times more than the level officials claim as serious research has now documented. He cites the work of the Moscow Center for Economic and Political Reforms which says that prices for the basic market basket of goods have risen 9.5 percent in the last year (1prime.ru/News/20171227/828301381.html). What this reflects, Nemets continues, is the increasing impoverishment of the population. Instead of the 14-15 percent of Russians officials say live in poverty, at least 30 to 35 percent do; and some observers suggest that the figure is far higher than that, with almost everyone affected (youtube.com/watch?v=J3YE5lAuUeg&feature=youtu.be). Such declines in caloric and protein consumption combined with rising poverty not only hurt society today, he points out, but have serious demographic consequences in the future. Among these consequences are fewer potential parents being willing to have children and those who do having lower birthweight and less health offspring.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 11 – Russians employed in factories have become “an invisible group” in society since 1991; and as a result, the identity even now is based largely on memories of the Soviet past as exacerbated by their sense of growing social inequality, according to a new study by the Higher School of Economics of workers at the Uralmash plant. The study, prepared by Elizaveta Polukhina and Anna Strelnikova of the HSE and Alexandrina Vanke of the University of Manchester, notes that since the end of the Soviet Union, workers have received very little attention, including from sociologists and other scholars (iq.hse.ru/news/213569213.html). This has left members of this group “lost” because they had been respected in Soviet times; but “in the 1990s everything changed completely.” They lost their former status in society and watched as their relative position in the income pyramid fell precipitously, the three researchers say. Uralmash, set up in the northern section of Yekaterinburg in 1927 was a workers’ settlement based on a number of factories. It was one of dozens of such settlements in Soviet times. At present, more than 190,000 people live there, a number far lower than in the past. The HSE researchers conducted deep interviews with a number of the remaining workers. These settlements, the sociologists say, were intended to provide everything the workers needed and to root them to one place. As such, they served as an important component of the Soviet system of control. But despite what many might think, many there now recall that arrangement as a positive thing. Most of the workers now say they felt like “part of a large family,” one in which their days and even their lives were predictable and in which they could expect to be taken care of cradle to grave. They say they were proud to be “simple Soviet people,” a category that they defined more in ethical terms than in class ones. For these workers, the collapse of the Soviet system as completely negative and remains so. And if they were quite happy to talk about the Soviet period, they were much more restrained in discussing the 1990s, the three sociologists say. For them, that period meant wage arrears, the loss of many fellow workers, and search for a new place in life. The sociologists say that even now, workers at Uralmash view themselves as “innocent ‘victims of circumstances.’” As a result, “the contemporary identity of workers is a kind of mix which includes Soviet and post-Soviet practices, meanings and values,” but it still focuses on values rather than income alone. “This doesn’t mean that class distinctions have disappeared entirely. To a large extent,” the three write, “identity is defined as a result of a sense of social stratification.” Workers don’t feel comfortable dealing with managers or owners and don’t have the same social cohesion they once had particularly as younger workers gain education and move away.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 11 – Andrey Bezhutin, the head of the Carrier Union and organizer of the long-haul truckers strike against the Plato system, fled from outside a Russian courtroom on December 27 where he was slated to be tried on three different charges related to the strike. He is now in hiding but has given an interview to Nina Petlyanova of Novya gazeta. He says that he fled from the police because all the charges against him were based on fabrications and that getting away from the authorities was remarkably easy even though the police had brought in reinforcements (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/01/10/75102-andrey-bazhutin-im-dazhe-gortsev-udalos-zapugat). Bazhutin says he decided to flee because the authorities were acting illegally and thus had eliminated any basis for his obeying their orders. Now, he remains in hiding. He doesn’t have a telephone – that would allow the police to find him – but he says that he “knows that they have been searching for him.” He says he will have to remain in hiding at least until his case is heard. That was scheduled for today. If the courts delay that hearing, Bazhutin says, then it will be completely clear that they want to isolate the union leader from his followers rather than to punish him for any real violations. Bazhutin says that he announced his plans to run for president not because he expected any success but rather because “if we do not get involved in politics, politics will get involved with us.” That, he says his own case shows, has already happened. He adds he organized his candidacy from Makhachkala because it is impossible for him to do so in Moscow or Petersburg. “In Daghestan, it is more difficult to frighten people,” Bazhutin says. “But they showed us that it is possible to put pressure even on the mountaineers, although the assembly nonetheless happened: 50 honest people were not frightened,” showing that much can be done. “In Tyumen, only nine people came out to support Putin, but 50 did so for me in Daghestan. “I do not see any loss. We will continue to struggle.” Eighty percent of the drivers in Russia are part of his Carriers Union, and they will vote in the upcoming elections and in others. “We will use all moments in order that our people will penetrate government officces as much as possible and make our demands. We do not intend to sit quietly.” The Plato system is the occasion rather than the single cause of the truckers’ unity in action, he says. In 2015, there were between 1.5 million and two million trucks registered. Then, 30 percent of them were operated by major corporations and 70 percent by small ones or individuals. Now, the ratio is 50-50, and some 20 percent have left the field. The government doesn’t support small business, but the truckers do. And they will continue the fight, Bazhutin pledges regardless of what legal or illegal actions the authorities choose to deploy.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 11 – Just as Moscow has removed animals from the Red Book of protected species to make it easier for hunters to kill rare species off, so too the Kremlin has removed the protections non-Russian languages have enjoyed and thus make it easier for the Russian regime to kill them off, Radzhana Dugarova says. The Buryat historian points out that, according to UNESCO, 136 languages of the Russian Federation are at risk of disappearing. This means that any Red Book of Languages at Risk would include all the languages of all the peoples of the Russian Federation except Russian (sibreal.org/a/28944422.html). “All the languages of the numerically small peoples of the North and Siberia, Udmurt, Kalmyk, Chukchi, Buryat and the languages of the peoples of the North Caucasus are at the brink of disappearing [and] certain languages, Kamasa, Kerek, Ubykh, and Yug finally died out already in the 20th century.” In short, Russia is “a country where they kill languages.” That is what Vladimir Putin is about when he insists that no one should be required to learn a language other than his own, except for Russian, a policy that is the inevitable outcome of the anti-Russian policies in education he and his regime have been promoting since the early years of his rule, Dugarova continues. “It has often been noted,” she says, “that the Russian authorities have for a long time already been living in an alternative reality. In this reality, the Russian Federation has finally been converted into the Russian Empire of the model of the century before last, a colonial ‘prison house of peoples,’ pursuing a harsh course of the assimilation of minorities.” The Kremlin has made enormous strides in that direction, the historian says. “Russia today is essentially a unitary state with a fake federal system which has finally been destroyed by the much-ballyhooed ‘power vertical.’ And the fact that the president of a multi-national country openly calls himself a Russian nationality in this reality seems absolutely logical and justified.” But “in the real world,” Russia’s ethnic and linguistic minorities have rights under international law; and to the extent they are now cowed by the power of the Russian state, they are angry. Moscow’s attacks on their languages are increasingly viewed as attacks on themselves, leading to a sharp deterioration of inter-ethnic relations. That is especially because Putin’s policies have created chaos, in Tatarstan now just as in Buryatia three years ago. And while some say that teaching in national languages is less important than “preserving it in the family,” few non-Russians believe that even if Russian nationalists can be counted on to repeat it again and again. The Russian nationalists like this argument because it shifts the blame for what is happening away from the Russian state to the non-Russians. If non-Russian languages die, this argument implies, it is the fault of the non-Russians who haven’t saved them rather than the Russian state which in the name of choice and voluntariness has made that impossible. But the Russian nationalists show that they do not believe what they are saying by their attacks on Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine for not providing what they believe are sufficiently good conditions for instruction in Russian in those countries, Dugarova continues. Languages survive or die depending on what the government does, regardless of what Russian nationalists say. As of today, the Russian state is “concerned only about the survival of the Russian language.” All others will be allowed to die. Russians may think they will be the beneficiaries of this; but they are wrong: they are breeding their own nemeses in people who have had their right to survive taken away from them.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 7 – Since 2012, 20 percent of the residents of Siberia and the Russian Far East have left for the European portion of Russia or abroad. Most explain this by pointing to the region’s climate or its lack of opportunities for careers or recreation. But there is a more fundamental cause, Yaroslav Zolotaryev says: the imperial nature of the Russian state. “Climate of course also plays a role,” the Russian regionalist says, although it is far from clear that “Moscow with its ecological problems is obviously superior to Tomsk as measured by ‘climate and the surrounding milieu.’ Moscow also has its winters, and so people aren’t moving there to escape cold weather (afterempire.info/2018/01/05/siberians/). Instead, Zolotaryevo argues, “Everything can be summed up in one word: empire. If you are fated to be born in an empire, then your life chances are connected with moving to the capital, which is psychologically and pragmatically considered as ‘the main thing’ while the regions are viewed as ‘unimportant and peripheral.’” Many acknowledge that because the center extracts so many resources from the regions, it is only natural that “cadres follow them.” But this is not the only thing that is going on: “In a centralized empire, the mental denigration of the regions is also obvious and it strongly affects the psyches of people.” And that means, Zolotaryev says, that in order to address the problem of population flight from the regions, one must focus not just on resources but also on “raising Siberia in the eyes of people as a brand, as a play where life is honorable and prestigious.” The same thing is true for other parts of the empire as well. “Now,” he continues, “when almost everything in the country is decided in Moscow, it is natural that the most active part of the population will be drawn there, to the center of all decisions. If, however, the regions felt that they had the chance to choose their own fate, this would weaken the psychological factor” that plays such a large but often unnoticed role.
Public demonstrations and other similar activities are banned over more than half of the territory of Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk, rights activists say.
This week, Russia’s Ministry of Justice removed Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus from the list of “foreign agents” because it no longer receives foreign funding. Andrei Rudomakha, the head of this prominent Russian environmental group, heard the news while in a hospital bed – two weeks earlier he had been severely injured in a vicious attack while investigating suspicions of illegal logging in South Russia.
Russian lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a bill that would enable the government to brand some individual journalists and bloggers — not only media outlets — as foreign agents.
A controversial passport-selling scheme is proving irresistible to business elites.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – Local and regional officials in Siberia and the Russian Far East feel helpless in the face of a massive influx of Chinese tourists, businessmen, and property purchasers who ignore local laws and act as if they can do whatever they please, prompting some officials there to speak of Chinese “wrecking.” The officials have warned them against construction that violates local ordnances and against the harvesting of timber without regard to existing Russian rules, but in every case, these officials say, the Chinese simply ignore what they are told and continue with their construction or harvesting of the forests (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/47935). Unlike some hyperbolic commentators, these officials are not talking about a looming Chinese occupation of the region as some Russian nationalists are inclined to do but rather of various kinds of “neo-colonial” behavior that are generating Russian hostility to the Chinese as a nation. These local problems will have a broader resonance because they touch on the issue of the survival of Lake Baikal – the Chinese have been accused of drawing so much water out of that natural wonder that its surface level has fallen significantly in the last two years – and on Russian security in a region Russians have been leaving since Soviet times. In the Altay, Chinese tourism and business interests have become more prominent in the last two years, observers say, with the Chinese coming and buying up local properties at fire sale prices. The Chinese have the money and assume they will be able to make a profit whether Russians remain there or not. Local residents are even more angry than local officials who often declare they can do nothing as the Chinese are building on land they have purchased and are cutting down trees on land they already own, a situation that has already produced protests as well as court cases in the region. But local Russians say that the situation is getting worse and note that the timing could hardly be less good: Moscow has just completed a Year of the Environment, while Russian officials have allowed the Chinese to despoil it in the Transbaikal and further east.
Paul Goble Staunton, December 17 — The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore. Consequently, Windows on Eurasia each week presents a selection of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 113th such compilation, and it is again a double issue with 26 from Russia and 13 from Russia’s neighbors. Even then, it is far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest. 1. Putin’s Press Conference Subjected to Intense Fact Checking. The Kremlin leader said so many things that were either completely false or highly distorted that numerous Russian media outlets published fact-checking articles pointing this out (newsland.com/community/4109/content/desiat-primerov-togo-kak–lgal-na-press-konferentsii/6123553, newsland.com/community/6399/content/v-1954-godu-krym-otdali-ukraine-v-narushenie-zakona-zaiavil-/6123283, and polit.ru/news/2017/12/14/_army/). Putin also attracted more attention to opposition figure Aleksey Navalny by his pointedly avoiding saying his name (themoscowtimes.com/news/-snubs-navalnys-name-because-he-doesnt-like-him-kremlin-says-59964). But polls show Russians continue to give Putin credit for good things while not holding him responsible for bad ones (burckina-new.livejournal.com/1000946.html). Happily, at least one Russian commentator has now said that “Putin isn’t god” (svobodaradio.livejournal.com/3287736.html), and ever more are suggesting that his next term will be a catastrophe for the country (ej.ru/?a=note&id=31890 and echo.msk.ru/blog/lev_ponomarev/2107706-echo/). Two personal items about Putin: he was a bit player in movies in the 1970s, playing in one instance a German soldier (snob.ru/selected/entry/132345); and exploiting the president’s passion for fitness, one Russian firm is now selling dumbbells in the shape of Putin’s head (facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1497971853653068&set=a.107042812745986.9938.100003208032044&type=3&theater).
Longtime cronies of Vladimir Putin can always count on a soft landing, even when they get into trouble. Especially when they get into trouble. Consider the case of Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s former sports minister, whose ties to the Kremlin leader stretch all the way back to when both served in the St. Petersburg government in the 1990s. Mutko has, of course, long been under pressure over widespread allegations of state-sponsored doping. He’s currently fighting a lifetime ban by the International Olympic Committee. Last year, he was forced to step down as chairman of the World Cup organizing committee and as president of Russia’s Football Union. But guess what? Mutko just got a new job. According to press reports, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev this week named Mutko head of the organizing committee for the United Nations World Tourism Organization summit, which will take place in St. Petersburg next year. Sure, it’s not as lofty a position as organizing the World Cup. But the appointment sends a couple of clear messages. Inside Russia, it demonstrates that the system will take care of its loyal lieutenants — as long as they remain loyal. And outside Russia, it illustrates that Moscow is not going to show any remorse to speak of for widespread allegations of state-sponsored doping that have rocked the sports world. In fact, quite the opposite.
In Russia, there appears to be Soviet-style crackdown against a group dedicated to researching and exposing human rights abuses dating back to the Soviet era. The organization is called Memorial.
Human rights activist Oyub Titiyev has been charged with drug possession and ordered jailed for two months in pretrial detention in Chechnya, a lawyer and associates said.
A prominent opposition activist from Russia’s North Caucasus region of Ingushetia has been detained upon arrival to his native region.
Activists say that the head of the prominent Russian human rights group Memorial’s office in Chechnya has been detained.
A respected patients-rights group in the Volga region city of Saratov could face closure as local authorities accuse it of violating Russia’s notorious “foreign-agents” law.
Aeroflot says the wife of Russian soccer star Andrei Arshavin was removed from an international flight due to what the airline said was her “obstructive behavior” and refusal to comply with the cre…
A former Russian police officer who was sentenced to life in prison for the killings of 22 women is on trial again, charged with murdering 60 more women.
Dozens of people have been stricken with salmonella after eating at a cafe in the capital of Russia’s Far Eastern region of Buryatia.
A bottle of vodka stolen in Denmark – said to be worth $1.3 million — has highlighted the outlandish spending habits of the nouveau riche in former Soviet republics.
Danish police say what was claimed to be “the world’s most expensive” bottle of vodka — valued at $1.3 million — has been found empty at a construction site in Copenhagen early on January 5.
Hundreds of Russians were made homeless by fires. Were they victims of arson attacks launched by property developers? (RFE/RL’s Russian Service)
A drunken man was detained after stealing an armored personnel carrier and crashing it into a supermarket in northwestern Russia on January 10, police said.
The man stole the armoured personnel carrier from a military driving school, drove it through his town and crashed through the front of a grocery store
Persecuted at home, a transgender woman from Uzbekistan is seeking asylum in Belarus — a country that is not exactly known as a haven of tolerance when it comes to sexual orientation.
In a remote desert near the border between Kazakhstan and China, a massive dry port has been built to develop overland routes for Chinese exports to markets in Europe, Russia, and Central Asia.
The Ukrainian was offered cooperation under the threat of deportation
Checkered past of chekist puts Minsk barbershop on activists’ map.
Transnistria / Moldova Reports
Moldova’s pro-EU government has banned Russian news broadcasts in the country—a move strongly criticised by Moscow. Supporters of the bill—signed into law by the president of Moldova’s parliament—say it will reduce “propaganda” from pro-Russian media outlets. Moscow slammed what it called an “anti-Russian attack” and claimed it denied Moldovans the “fundamental right of access information”.…
The Speaker of the Parliament of Moldova, Andrian Candu, acting in place of the suspended President Igor Dodon, signed off on seven appointments …
The speaker of Moldova’s parliament, Andrian Candu, has signed legislation appointing seven new government ministers along with a law that bans Russian “media propaganda.”
Moldova’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the government does not need the signature of pro-Russian President Igor Dodon in order to enact a law that bans so-called “media propaganda” from Russia.
Moldova bans Russian propaganda news despite president’s defiance. View news feed in world news for 10 January from UNIAN Information Agency
President of Moldova Igor Dodon refused to promulgate the law twice
The developments of recent months have shown that Viktor Medvedchuk became (and, indeed, was) the main communicator between the administrations of the presidents of Ukraine and Russia. Despite his ambiguous image in Ukraine, it is he who is on direct contact with the head of the Russian state. It’s either family ties with Putin or similar views on Ukrainian nationalism that made it possible to move the issue of prisoner exchange from the dead end. The very fact that the liberation of the Ukrainian military on December 27 took place following direct instructions from the Russian president once again showed that there are no “young republics” as such, and the issue is decided solely on the Kremlin’s command. This year Medvedchuk met with Putin again, and this meeting was held on January 10. And then, the next day, the Russian president made sensational statements about Ukraine. On the one hand, the old mantra about the “one people” was repeated, but on the other hand, Putin began talking about “normalizing relations” between Russia and Ukraine after “settling Donbas issues” and the Kremlin’s lack of interest in freezing the conflict. The rhetoric has changed dramatically – no more “massacres”, Donbas is called by its name, not “southeastern Ukraine”, and, most importantly, no more “republics”. High-ranking Russian officials seem to have sharply doubted the principle of preserving these Russian pseudo-state entities in the occupied part of Donbas. Putin also announced Russia’s readiness to return from the occupied Crimea Ukrainian military equipment: warships, aircraft and even armored vehicles! The transfer of these weapons was suspended in the summer of 2014 after the intensification of hostilities in Donbas and mass deployment of “Russian holidaymakers” to Ukraine. Such a gesture of “goodwill” might have caused heart attacks among Donbas collaborators. After all, in fact, this statement looks like Putin decided to strengthen Ukraine’s military potential, following the United States’ lethal aid efforts. And here the main question arises: what happened to the Kremlin’s master on a New Year’s Eve? Believing in Putin’s altruism would be too dangerous and short-sighted. If Russian citizens were to decide anything, we could assume that Putin wants to make peace with Ukraine in favor of his election campaign. But this is unlikely as the people in Russia don’t need peace. The war is sold much better from TV screens. Moreover, Russians are so fooled by the idea of “fascist Ukraine” that, according to public opinion polls, they consider our country and the U.S. their major enemies. Most likely, the Kremlin, against the backdrop of the expansion of personal U.S. sanctions, decided once again to change tactics on Ukraine and show the West the illusion of contractability. It is no accident that Russian media began to report on talks with Putin on the “acceptable format” of a peacekeeping mission in Donbas. Here for Moscow, the very fact of long and useless negotiations is more important than their outcome. It is likely that the already-tested formula of “settlement” will be chosen: the proposal to “exchange” the occupied Crimea for the occupied Donbas. By and large, for Moscow, this is a win-win option: to offer to return the ruined and looted Donbas and de facto close the issue of the occupied Crimea. Moreover, the return of the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions to Ukraine’s administrative and legal space before the Ukrainian elections in 2019 can significantly affect the composition and quality of our country’s political elites. Roman Tsymbaliuk, Moscow
Volodymyr Groysman, the Prime Minister of Ukraine commented the statement of Vladimir Putin, the Russian President on the readiness to pass Ukraine the military vehicles based in occupied Crimea during his visit to Mariupol as 112 Ukraine broadcasted. ‘I have a counter offer for the Russian president; I offer the return of Crimea along with the fleet. We are ready to accept it in the near future’, Groysman claimed.
Ukrainian military hardware, which was left in Russian-occupied Crimea and which Moscow said can be returned to Ukraine, may not prove to be in good order, which calls into question the expediency of its return, a People’s Front faction deputy and a member of the Verkhovna Rada committee on national security and defense, Dmytro Tymchuk, has said. “We need to study this issue, but I have a big suspicion that there really is nothing to transfer there,” Tymchuk told Interfax-Ukraine on Friday. According to him, armored vehicles of the Ukrainian army, which were left in Crimea after the seizure of the peninsula by Russia, were sent to Donbas by invaders in 2014. Thus, he notes, Russia tried to hide the presence of its troops there. Tymchuk also noted that armored vehicles that can remain in Crimea at the moment most likely need substantial repairs and will not improve the combat capacity of the Ukrainian army. “It is important to understand what remained of the equipment and weapons that Russian troops left in Crimea,” he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on January 11 that Russia was ready to give back to Ukraine the combat equipment the Ukrainian army and fleet abandoned when leaving the Crimean Peninsula. However, he added, the Ukrainian military equipment “is in poor condition.” “But it’s none of our business. This is the condition it actually was in. And naturally, nobody has ever serviced it all these years,” Putin said. He said that the issue concerned dozens of combat ships and aircraft.
Secretary of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security and Defense, Bloc of Petro Poroshenko MP Ivan Vinnyk, has described as humiliating an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin to hand over to Ukraine the military hardware that remained in occupied Crimea, and does not believe that this will be followed by some practical steps. “Putin is in no way going to improve Ukraine’s combat capacity… On this basis, there is no need to expect that Putin is ready to transfer something really efficient, combat-ready, what the Ukrainian Armed Forces need today… There will be no consequences from this. This statement in relation to Ukraine, in my opinion, is humiliating. This way he tries to humiliate Ukraine,” Vinnyk said live on the 112 Ukraine television channel on Friday. He also expressed confidence that this statement by Putin had been made “mainly for domestic consumers in the Russian Federation” as part of the election campaign of the head of the Russian state. The parliamentarian also expects that this proposal will not be followed by any reaction from top-ranking Ukrainian officials. “I don’t think that legally the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will officially react. Deputies have reacted – they have the right to express their position. I personally do not expect any reaction from state leaders,” Vinnyk said. Putin said on January 11 that Russia was ready to give back to Ukraine the combat equipment the Ukrainian army and fleet abandoned when leaving the Crimean Peninsula. However, he added, the Ukrainian military equipment “is in poor condition.” “But it’s none of our business. This is the condition it actually was in. And naturally, nobody has ever serviced it all these years,” Putin said.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is considering a response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement about the possible return of military hardware abandoned in Crimea to Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariana Betsa told the television channel 112.Ukraine on Friday. “The issue has many aspects,” the TV channel’s website cited Betsa as saying. As reported, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia is ready to give back to Ukraine the combat equipment the Ukrainian army and fleet abandoned when leaving the Crimean Peninsula. He said that the Ukrainian military equipment “is in poor condition.” “But it’s none of our business. This is the condition it actually was in. And naturally, nobody has ever serviced it all these years,” Putin said. He says about dozens of warships, dozens of aircraft. “As for the ships, I think it will be better if Ukrainian servicemen just come and take them. We are ready to help transport them to Odesa,” Putin said.
The Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (CACDS) sees a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin to transfer Ukrainian weapons and military hardware from occupied Crimea as political technology ahead of the upcoming tightening of U.S. sanctions and recommend that the Ukrainian authorities ignore this proposal. The Ukrainian analytical center said in an official statement on Friday that the upcoming introduction of new U.S. sanctions against members of the ruling class in Russia obliges the Kremlin “to demonstrate readiness to soften its position on Ukraine.” According to experts, the return of Ukrainian arms and military equipment from Crimea from the point of view of strengthening the Ukrainian Armed Forces potential will not have any positive effect, but, on the contrary, will entail unacceptable financial costs, including the payment of significant funds to the aggressor country for spare parts to arms and military equipment. At the same time, this step will form a negative information background around Ukraine, and will also “allow Putin to realize a plan to create conditions for the cancellation of the introduction of new sanctions by the U.S. and the lifting of the existing EU sanctions,” the statement says. At the same time, CACDS specifies that according to available information, representatives of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea have been permanently destroying Ukrainian arms and military equipment since April 2014, when Russia blocked negotiations on the search for a format for returning to Ukraine the arms and military hardware captured in Crimea. In particular, the most efficient Ukrainian ships, in particular, the Kostiantyn Olshansky, the Ternopil and Lutsk corvettes, are used as “donors” for Russian ships and are dismantled for spare parts for the repair of ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. “It is most likely that Ukrainian ships, aircraft and armored vehicles, as well as air defense systems, are now in Crimea in a state unfit for use,” experts say. “The repair and restoration of the technical readiness and combat readiness of arms and military hardware will require considerable funds. At the same time, this process will put Ukraine in dependence on Russia and will become an occasion for the implementation of a powerful anti-Ukrainian information campaign,” the statement reads. In view of these circumstances, CACDS recommends that the Ukrainian authorities, before the presidential elections in Russia, not to react at the official level to the proposals put forward by the Russian side for the transfer of weapons and military equipment from occupied Crimea and not to agree to any negotiations, including “preliminary verification of weapons and military equipment,” to officially declare the inexpediency of the return of the destroyed inefficient equipment from Crimea, to continue to work within the formats worked out by the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Justice Ministry on filing lawsuits with international courts regarding the payment by Russia of compensation for Ukrainian arms and military hardware captured in Crimea.
As the Minsk deal seems to be less and less capable of ending the conflict between Russian-led separatist forces in Donbas and the Ukrainian army, more voices sound in support of the “Croatian Scenario.” It refers to the time when, in 1995, over 84 hours, Croatia regained control of roughly 20% of its territory held by Serbian separatists. Condemned by the EU and having led to a number of war crimes, this scenario, nevertheless offers many lessons to Ukraine. Euromaidan Press explains which ones.
Last year, irreversible non-battle casualties of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Donbas amounted to 98 dead servicemen, according to the …
The Sergeants Training Centre of the Ukrainian Navy hosts the Leadership Course given by US Marine Corps instructors
Ukraine’s army launches training of Javelin operators – media. View news feed in news about politics for 12 January from UNIAN Information Agency
The aim of these maneuvers was to work out cooperation under NATO standards and increase the interoperability
Military equipment was sold to the country’s army, Thailand and Pakistan
Ukraine’s Malyshev plant sells military hardware worth $105 mln in 2017. View news feed in news about economy for 12 January from UNIAN Information Agency
The Yuzhnoye State Design Office is jointly developing with the State Space Agency of Ukraine the new hypersonic cruise missile. The press-service of “Yuzhnoye” design bureau released video footage showing a new concept of high-altitude hypersonic unmanned aerial vehicles, includes the project of a hypersonic cruise missile. The development of new hypersonic unmanned aerial vehicle is an ongoing process of search for new technological solutions. It was reported that, to date, “Yuzhnoye” develops the components of new hypersonic unmanned aerial vehicles and has been carrying out important work into high-temperature materials applicable to hypersonic unmanned aerial vehicles. The new missile would constitute a maneuvering, high-altitude hypersonic cruise missile. The missile will be equipped with the solid-fuel engine for booster stage accelerates it to supersonic speeds and supersonic combusting ramjet engine for hypersonic flight. Publicly available reports indicate that the new Ukrainian hypersonic cruise missile will be able to reach hypersonic speeds and to exceed a speed of 1,700 m/s. The range of the new missile is estimated to be 300 to 1750 kilometers.
The Yuzhnoye State Design Office is jointly developing with the State Space Agency of Ukraine the new hypersonic cruise missile.
On Wednesday, January 10, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin met with Viktor Medvedchuk, the representative of Ukraine in …
Member of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (BPP) faction, secretary of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security and Defense Ivan Vinnyk has said the United States will put Leader of the Ukrainian Choice public movement Viktor Medvedchuk on the new sanction list. “Well-informed sources, among other things, said that the United States put Medvedchuk on the sanction list in connection with the Russian aggression against Ukraine,” Ivan Vinnyk said on 112.ua TV channel on Friday.
Vitaly Portnikov After yet another detention of Ukrainian citizens in Russia, Ukrainian officials began to speak again about the danger of travelling to the neighboring country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned that such trips often become a “one way ticket.” The Security Service of Ukraine cautioned that Russian special services are hunting for Ukrainian citizens. But will these warnings have any impact on the Ukrainians who continue to visit Russia? Some Ukrainian citizens are still under the illusion that only those who flaunt political views that diverge from those accepted in Russia face any threat in that country. What danger can threaten the so-called “little man” who is far from politics? And if a Ukrainian citizen has generally espoused pro-Putin views, if he has faithfully voted for Yanukovych and other pro-Russian politicians, and if he dreams about the occupation of his country by Putin’s troops, then why can’t he visit Moscow or Tula and communicate with his friends and relatives there? But here I must disillusion both the apolitical citizens and the adherents of the “Russian world.” The logic of authoritarian regimes and their special services differs from the one you have become accustomed to in Ukraine. Both the Maidan activists and those who did not support the popular uprising are equally threatened. The main document that makes a Ukrainian citizen interesting to Russian special services is his passport — not a certificate that he is an activist or a volunteer. An ordinary passport. After all, the special services do not detain Ukrainians because they are looking for some real transgression but in order to use them — for propaganda, for destabilizing the situation in Ukraine, for exchange. Russian secret services find it useful to maintain an atmosphere of psychosis in their own society in order to justify Putin’s aggressive policies. Therefore, more and more “spies” and “terrorists” are needed. In Moscow they see how painfully Ukrainian society reacts to the detention of its own citizens. In this regard, Ukraine really does differ from Russia, where fellow citizens can be treated like garbage. Therefore, it is necessary to detain more and more new people. And inquiring about the political views of these hostages would be absurd. The trident is the death of Putinism The post-war deportation of Crimean Tatars and the peoples of the Caucasus is an excellent example from history. At that time, everyone was deported — those who fought in the ranks of the Red Army and those who lived in the occupied territories, those who had no political views and those who headed up local party organizations. The main factor for Stalin — as earlier for Hitler — was ethnic origin, nothing more. There was no chance to avoid repression by supporting the leader. This simply must be understood. During the Holocaust, those Jews who resisted and those who served in the ghetto police were destroyed equally. During the deportations, those who were distant from the Stalin regime and those who advanced to positions as deputies and regional administrative secretaries were expelled equally. Little has changed in Russia since then. And for the current Russian regime, the enemy is everyone with a trident (national symbol of Ukraine — Ed.) on the cover of his passport. Because this trident is the death of Putinism. Fortunately for many who visit Russia, the Kremlin is conducting a hybrid war against Ukraine. And in such a war there is always a chance for survival. However, death also seems completely unpredictable. Therefore, trips to Russia have not yet become the “one way tickets” mentioned by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Rather, they are the famous “Russian roulette” where you do not know which bullet in the pistol will turn out to be fatal.
The Christmas period is a busy time for military chaplains serving Mass and the sacraments to thousands of Ukrainian soldiers deployed in Eastern Ukraine. Chaplain Mykola Medynsky, representing the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), is spending his fourth Christmas with the soldiers and their relatives. We talked to Father Mykola about religion, chaplaincy, and the spiritual defense of Ukraine.
Petro Kralyuk – Vice-Rector and Professor at the Ostroh Academy, philosopher, writer, publicist The tragic death of an infant in Zaporizhzhya early January, and the refusal of Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MC) priests to bury and pray for him, has caused considerable outcry in Ukrainian society.
One of the main demands of Euromaidan protesters four years ago were to establish justice for victims of regime brutality. Four years later, one of the key players of this brutality has received an incredibly light sentence in what experts say is a result of a failed judicial renewal. Ultimately, this situation suits the existing political elites “who control the justice system and use it not for the protection of human rights, but for their political ends.”
12.01.18 16:13 – Ukraine stiffens punishment for domestic violence The amendments to the Ukrainian law on aggravating circumstances of a crime enter into force Jan. 12. View news.
Russia / Iran / Syria / Iraq / OEF Reports
President Donald Trump has handed European allies an ultimatum to revamp the nuclear deal with Iran, something they have no intention of doing, posing a potential new conflict with other world leaders.
President Donald Trump has delivered an ultimatum to America’s European allies to fix the “terrible flaws” in the Iran nuclear deal, or he’ll pull the U.S. out in a few months’ time.
Iran said Saturday it won’t accept any changes to the 2015 nuclear deal after Trump vowed to pull out of it if European allies did not fix its “terrible flaws.”
In March 2017, the head of Iran’s Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs stated, “Some 2,100 martyrs have been martyred so far in Iraq and other places defending the holy mausoleums.” These 2,100 Iranian deaths over the past five years of fighting in Iraq and Syria are nearly equivalent to the 2,400 American deaths in seventeen years of combat in Afghanistan. Yet, although initial domestic support for American intervention in Afghanistan was the highest of all such military action since Gallup started collecting data in 1983, by February 2014, as casualties mounted, a plurality of Americans viewed the war in Afghanistan as a mistake. In contrast, the Iranian government narrative that its soldiers are protecting Shi’a holy sites in Syria has driven consistently high public approval with 89 percent of Iranians supporting the defense of shrines in Syria and about 65 percent supporting the deployment of Iranian soldiers to do so. With the relationship between military intervention and domestic public support in mind, the comparison of forces between Iran and the United States depends more on willingness to use those forces than the capabilities they represent. On the surface, Iran faces the overwhelming power projection of the United States, along with the conventional superiority of US and Gulf Cooperation Council military forces. Despite this disparity, Iran is able to use a suite of conventional, unconventional, and proxy forces to deter potential aggressors, compete with regional peers, and influence states it considers vital to its national security. Along these lines, Iran attempts to circumvent American military strengths against which the Iranian military would lose, in favor of asymmetric concepts including its ballistic missile program; anti-access, area denial tactics; and support to proxy groups. These three methods hinge on a competition of resolve between Iran and its rivals to incur the costs of conflict: the former two affect the cost calculation of potential adversaries and the latter displays Iran’s willingness to assume more risk than its opponents in pursuit of its political ends abroad. Determining the interests for which Iran is willing to incur high costs is essential if the United States expects to “neutralize Iranian malign influence,” a priority identified in the 2017 National Security Strategy. This comes as the US public decidedly prefers intervention in the form of airstrikes and Tomahawk cruise missiles rather than ground troops who could actually influence partner forces determined to counter that Iranian influence.
Why are young Iranians demanding the return of the Pahlavi dynasty? Media-savvy exiles in Europe.
Iran slammed US President Donald Trump’s decision to target the head of its judiciary with sanctions, saying the move warrants a “severe” response.
TEHRAN, Jan. 13 (MNA) – Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Saturday and announced that while Iran pursues the violation of JCPOA by the US, it will react fittingly to newly imposed US sanctions.
An Iranian ayatollah who was responsible for overseeing hundreds of death sentences received medical treatment in Germany in recent days. The case has stoked a fiery discussion among Iranian social media users.
The strikes come after Putin said he knew who was responsible, though the Kremlin has so far declined to name names.
The Russian military says it has killed militants it holds responsible for an attack on its air base in Syria.
“As both Islamic State and Amazon have shown, small drones are an efficient way of carrying a payload to a target.”
Moscow said it conducted a military operation to “eliminate” militants behind a coordinated drone attack on its Syrian military bases.
Islamists in Syria reportedly down sophisticated Russian drone – media. View news feed in world news for 13 January from UNIAN Information Agency
Conflict Intelligence Team, Москва (Moscow, Russia). 5.4k likes. Команда, занимающаяся расследованием военных конфликтов в Украине и Сирии.
Valentina, mother of the Cossack Grigory Tsurkanu, who was captured by ISIS militants, told Dozhd TV that the Ministry of Defense has sent the …
DPRK / PRC / WESTPAC Reports
“Significant tunneling” is underway at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site and shows the regime plans to maintain the site, according to a report.
Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site indicates that the North Portal, where the last five nuclear tests were conducted, remains dormant and that tunnel excavation has been stepped up at the West Portal. Throughout December 2017, mining carts and personnel were consistently present around the West Portal and there was significant expansion of the spoil pile. On December 28, there were also a large number of personnel (~100 to 120) observed in seven different formations whose purpose is unknown in the Southern Support Area. These activities underscore North Korea’s continued efforts to maintain the Punggye-ri site’s potential for future nuclear testing.
“It’s not going to be like toppling Hussein,” the retired general said.
Trust me: I was a nuclear strategist for the Pentagon.
After “fire and fury”: North Korea war warning by South Korean general
Moscow was flexing its muscles in the border regions in recent months.
A U.S. scientist who has seen the North Korean nuclear program up close warns against underestimating the dictatorship's capabilities
The heightened tension over North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs, combined with growing DPRK cyber capabilities and their use for coercion or theft, has led some to conclude that the North may launch cyber-attacks against US critical infrastructure, perhaps with catastrophic result. We can best assess this risk by placing it in a larger strategic context, and in this context, a major cyber-attack by the North is unlikely. Several assumptions guide this assessment. First, the primary objective of the North Korean state and the Kim family is regime survival. Someone who is worshipped as a god-king by millions, controls immense personal wealth, and has unchecked power will be loath to put this at risk. Second, North Korea is willing to use provocations, including low level attacks, as part of its diplomatic repertoire, but attempts to calculate the limits of what it can do without provoking major conflict. Finally, while North Korean decision-making on the use of cyber actions is murky, it is likely that all major programs or actions require Kim’s approval.
Foreign Policy Reports
Russia accuses British media of ‘pumping out’ propaganda against the 2018 World Cup hosts
The continent’s coddling of autocratic regimes will have steep moral and security costs. In testament to the paradoxes of our era, President Donald Trump appeared to be the only global leader speaking (or rather, tweeting) about the protests in Iran with any degree of moral clarity last week: “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years,” he wrote. “They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted.” Of course, such tweets of support come easily and are hardly a substitute for an intelligent, strategic approach to the threats posed by the mullahs, which we have yet to see from the president. What matters, however, is that Trump’s pronouncements stood in contrast with his self-professed foreign policy realism, which normally eschews judgments about the nature of foreign regimes, (remember his rhetorical question: “Our country’s so innocent?”) and the equivocation that came from European capitals, including the promise of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini to “continue to monitor the situation.”
If the EU really wants to punish Poland, it should turn up the pressure on Hungary.
THE PRAGUE SECURITY STUDIES INSTITUTE (PSSI) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in early 2002 to advance the building of a just, secure, democratic, free market society in the Czech Republic and other post-communist states.
Mr Trump will only honour the special relationship between the UK and US if he ‘gets what he wants’ – and would resent a Royal Wedding snub, according to journalist Michael Wolff.
Rising shipments of Russian crude to China could lead to rising crude prices for its top crude market: Europe
At least 24 American staff members and several Canadian diplomats at the American Embassy in Havana were affected.
Christoper John Lewis, 17, tried to assassinate the Queen with a .22 rifle in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1981. But the incident was swept under the carpet by embarrassed local police.
A group of Islamists who formed a vigilante gang called the “Sharia Police“ will be subject to a retrial after a German court overturned their 2016 acquittal. The seven men had been charged with wearing uniforms expressing a shared political opinion after patrolling the streets of Wuppertal in Western Germany at night in September 2014 in orange vests emblazoned with the words “Sharia Police”.
A top German court has toppled the acquittal of seven Muslim vigilantes and told a Wuppertal court to reconvene the case. The Karlsruhe judges said the key question was whether the “Sharia Police” intimidated the public.
WWF urges German government to stop the construction of Nord Stream II, calling the pipeline a ‘climatic and political dead end’ – WWF asks German govt to stop construction of Nord Stream II – 112.international
WWF urges German government to stop the construction of Nord Stream II, calling the pipeline a ‘climatic and political dead end’
The parties from the last coalition will start negotiations on forming a government. It’s only a partial victory for Chancellor Angela Merkel, and concerns remain over the role of a far-right party.
Jewish advocacy groups welcomed an idea to make such tours mandatory for immigrants to Germany. But some experts called the idea simplistic.
Sources say that Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD have achieved a ‘breakthrough’ in talks on a grand coalition. They say a final agreement depends on both sides giving their approval to move forward.
Germany’s Angela Merkel has said she is optimistic about forging a deal with the Social Democrats to form a new “grand coalition” government. However, all leaders agreed that the new era requires a new political style.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed after all-night talks on Friday to a blueprint for formal coalition negotiations, party sources said, raising prospects of an end to months of political uncertainty.
Angela Merkel’s own party bloc is making her life more difficult as hard-liners seek to force the German chancellor to shift to the right in talks on setting up a government.
A political impasse is weakening the chancellor and generating talk of who will replace her.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has returned to the negotiating table, this time with SPD leader Martin Schulz. She expressed optimism about the outcome, but admitted the parties were facing “a huge piece of work.”
More than three months after a German election, Chancellor Angela Merkel is still scrambling to form a new government and will on Sunday launch a five-day attempt to persuade the Social Democrats (SPD) to join a coalition with her conservatives.
Germans have had enough hemming and hawing over a new government and think the chancellor should get on with forming a coalition. A new survey clearly shows the Angela Merkel era is ending, says DW’s Jens Thurau.
Norwegian ilmenite is being shipped to occupied Crimea via a German company, in violation of EU and Norwegian sanctions. The ilmenite is apparently destined for the Armiansk Titan plant owned by Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, an investigation of Black Sea News reveals. Ilmenite is the titanium-iron oxide mineral, which is the most important ore of titanium. Every month, ilmenite is delivered by sea to the Kerch port of Kamysh-Burun in the east of occupied Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea to serve the sole buyer – the Armiansk Titan plant in the north of Crimea, part of the corporate group that belongs to Ukrainian tycoon Dmytro Firtash, who has been arrested in Austria in 2014 and can be extradited to the US to face corruption charges. In 2017, the Black Sea News registered several ilmenite-supply schemes to bypass the sanctions. The Ukrainian port Pivdennyi, Brazil, and the Turkish port of Samsun were involved in the schemes. In most cases, ilmenite was first delivered to the Kerch Strait (Roadstead 451 belonging to the Russian Port Kavkaz), then transshipped in the sea onto the Russian ships and later unloaded in the Kerch port of Kamysh-Burun. However, the investigators have recently found that ilmenite was shipped from Norway in November 2017 via the Romanian port of Constanța. The investigation by Black Sea News revealed that during November 3-6, the German cargo ship HHL MISSISSIPPI received 10 tons of ilmenite in the Norwegian port of Jøssingfjord, the site of one of the largest in Western Europe titanium mines Tellnes. From there, it traveled to the Romanian port of Constanța and on 23 November 2017, under the flag of Liberia, came to the roadstead of the Russian Port Kavkaz in the Kerch Strait (the same roadstead 451) to remain there until 5 December 2017. During its stay, an old Russian cargo ship NEFTERUDOVOZ-2 approached it for at least three times, and the HHL MISSISSIPPI onboard cranes loaded ilmenite to the Russian ship’s holds. The Russian vessel delivered the raw material to the Kerch port of Kamysh-Burun.
The details of the investigation to remain secret before the court, – 112
The veteran Czech politician has a good chance of being re-elected president
The Czechs are casting ballots for a second day in their presidential election.
Milos Zeman, the controversial, populist Czech president, stands for re-election this month. His challengers’ main campaign message is that they are not him. Political vision is lacking. Tim Gosling reports from Prague.
MILOŠ Zeman, the incumbent Czech president and outspoken Eurosceptic, is vying against eight other candidates in the Czech election – but will he win? Here are the latest polls and odds.
Czech President Milos Zeman was rushed by a bare-chested protester from the activist group Femen as he cast his vote in the first round of the country’s presidential election in Prague. The protester, repeatedly screaming “Zeman, Putin’s slut,” was apprehended before she could reach the 73-year-old Czech head of state. (RFE/RL’s Russian Service/Rustem Adagamov)
The Czech Republic is holding a presidential election that pits incumbent President Milos Zeman, who opposes immigration and is seen as pro-Russia, against eight other candidates.
Czechs vote in the first round of presidential elections on January 12-13, with incumbent Milos Zeman currently the lead candidate in opinion polls. Zeman is a highly controversial figure, seen by supporters as straight-talking politician willing to challenge conventional wisdom — while detractors argue he’s a divisive populist with dangerous pro-Russia leanings.
A state-linked hacking group is once again trying to discredit antidoping investigators.
The Washington Post: Russian military was behind ‘NotPetya’ cyberattack in Ukraine, CIA concludes. Current news and events for 13 January from UNIAN Information Agency
IN AUGUST 2015 Heiko Maas, Germany’s justice minister, wrote an open letter to Facebook demanding better enforcement of the country’s laws against slander, defamation and hate speech. “The internet is not a lawless space where racist abuse and illegal posts can be allowed to flourish,” he told the social-networking giant.
In 1923, Adolf Hitler wrote an embellished autobiography to convince Germans he was their natural leader
IBT: Hackers target Ukrainian software company to spread Zeus banking trojan. View news feed in news about social life for 06 January from UNIAN Information Agency
Expert dissects Russia’s shifting, self-contradicting MH17 narrative that blames Ukraine. Current news and events for 05 January from UNIAN Information Agency
Russian propaganda undermining trust in any information source, researcher says. View news feed in news about politics for 05 January from UNIAN Information Agency
Gary D. Rawnsley Pages 1-17 | Published online: 05 Jan 2018 Original Articles Download citation https://doi.org/10.1080/13216597.2017.1422779 ABSTRACT Soft power is one of the most familiar, yet misunderstood concepts in international relations. It is often used to describe cultural attraction and familiarity with a place in the belief that ‘to know us is to love us’.…
Since 2013, Russian media has been disseminating anti-Ukrainian propaganda which would enable and explain Russian intervention in Donbas. If the region is ever reintegrated into Ukraine, the Ukrainian government and people will need a lot of work and effort to reverse the negative image of the country in the minds of Donbas people.
White House cyber-security coordinator Rob Joyce warned in August that the United States is lacking 300,000 cyber-security experts needed to defend the cou
A court in Moscow has refused to grant early release to the leader of a group believed to be behind the hacking of high-profile Internet accounts, including the Twitter account of Prime Minister Dm…
New evidence that Washington broke its promise not to expand NATO “one inch eastward”—a fateful decision with ongoing ramifications—has not been reported by ‘The New York Times’ or other agenda-setting media outlets.
A vast number of tech firms are warning about the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. Some are getting patches out, but consumers may have to wait for most problems to be fixed.
Laptop and PC users are at risk of data breaches after researchers found flaws with computer chips.
The fix requires major OS rewrites which will probably make your computer run slower.
Update: Apple Watch is unaffected by both Meltdown and Spectre.
Several recently-published research articles have demonstrated a new class of timing attacks (Meltdown and Spectre) that work on modern CPUs. Our internal experiments confirm that …
US Domestic Policy Reports
His first Nuclear Posture Review: more nukes, more posturing.
The new proposal is significantly more hawkish than Obama-era policy, as critics call US development of new weapons ‘dangerous, Cold War thinking’
U.S. to develop more “usable” warheads to deter Russia. View news feed in world news for 10 January from UNIAN Information Agency
A significant part of the strategy will remain classified, but at least part of the document will be open to the public.
Few if any Central Intelligence Agency critics can match John Prados’s credentials or his credibility. A prolific author and long-time associate of the National Security Archive, Prados has spent many years pursuing declassification of CIA documents and then putting that material in the historical record. In The Ghosts of Langley, which follows several earlier works on CIA-related subjects, Prados revisits a series of troubling episodes spanning more than six decades of CIA history, from its clumsy and ineffective efforts to support resistance behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s to the black prisons and torture scandals of the “war on terror” era. In reviewing these and other CIA stumbles in the intervening years (the Bay of Pigs, supporting the Nicaraguan Contras in direct violation of a congressional ban, and illegal assassination plans are only some of many examples) Prados’s focus is not so much on the stories themselves, however, but on the CIA’s response. Consistently, as he tells it, rather than recognizing mistakes or considering ways to learn from them, the agency acted to protect itself and build even thicker walls to hide from public or congressional scrutiny. In the wake of each scandal, Prados reports, CIA officials sought to minimize their and their agency’s responsibility. At times they put out deliberately false information, sometimes in fairly clear violation of the law. On other occasions they grudgingly unveiled only the inescapable minimum of information, concealing as much of the true picture as they could. That pattern was typical not only in public disclosures but also in the agency’s dealings with the congressional committees that are legally charged with overseeing its actions. One Senate staffer involved in a probe of abuses in the Contra support program described the CIA’s response as “a domestic disinformation campaign against the U.S. Congress”—a characterization that could apply in many other cases covered in this book. In Prados’s view, CIA policies regularly crossed legal boundaries, committing crimes including “obstruction of justice, perjured testimony, [and] illegal operations.” That particular list appears in his account of the 1980s Contra scandal, during William Casey’s tenure as director. But Prados immediately adds that lawbreaking was hardly unique to that era: those crimes comprise “the same menu,” he writes, “as the subsequent war on terror.” Regrettably, in telling these stories, Prados does not make them easy for the reader. He drags in far too many unnecessary details on bureaucratic trivia or obscure bits of biography that have little or no bearing on the larger points he seeks to make. His narratives tend to circle forward and backward in time, making the chronology difficult to follow. In an odd and sometimes confusing stylistic quirk, he randomly calls people he is writing about by full names (sometimes with title, sometimes not), last names, first names, or nicknames—so that not infrequently the same person is identified by two or three different names in the course of four or five lines of text.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis discussed strategy in South Asia, issues on the Korean Peninsula and Iranian illicit weapons activities during an impromptu discussion with Pentagon reporters.,
(In this article in Foreign Affairs Professor Tom Nichols points to great public ignorance in the US about the world and the role of the US. The result is disturbing.) In 2014, following the Russian invasion of Crimea, The Washington Post published the results of a poll that asked Americans about whether the United States…
In a statement published on the website of the Russian diplomatic mission, the Russian Embassy in the US has called US demands for Russian media …
Moscow says the U.S. is fueling “anti-Russia hysteria and enhancing Americans’ fear of Russia” after the State Department issues a warning to U.S. travelers to reconsider visits to Russia.
Russian hackers from the group known as “Fancy Bear” are targeting the U.S. Senate with a new espionage campaign, according to cybersecurity firm Trend Micro.
Has President Donald Trump turned over a new leaf, or is he just postponing the U.S.’s next major military conflict?
Washington DC renames the street Russia’s embassy is on after murdered Putin critic Boris Nemtsov.
The local government in Washington, D.C., has approved a measure to rename the street in front of Russia’s embassy after slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
A new report compiled by U.S. Senate researchers warns that Russia has been emboldened by its efforts to interfere in U.S. and European elections, and calls for a stronger U.S. response to deter Mo…
Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee say the U.S. is ignoring danger at its peril, but they despair about the prospects for serious action in Washington, D.C.
Senate Democrats’ report accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of meddling in elections throughout Europe and says President Trump’s failure to challenge Putin poses threats to U.S. campaigns.
The report tracks Russian efforts in 19 countries, chronicling misinformation campaigns and the funding of far-right political causes long before the presidential election.
The FBI plans to alert U.S. companies and the public about efforts by Russia or other nations to use disinformation and social media manipulation to interfere in upcoming elections, while being careful not to upset free speech and constitutional rights, a top law enforcement official said.
Here are three things we need to do right now to secure our democracy.
John Cassidy writes about the newly released testimony of Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion of GPS, the firm that commissioned the Trump-Russia dossier.
The U.S. Justice Department has reportedly ordered the company RIA Global LLC to register as a foreign agent working for the Russian government. The company employs American journalists who supply materials to the Sputnik news agency and radio station. U.S. officials say they believe RIA Global LLC is controlled by the Russian state-run news organization Rossiya Segodnya. RIA Global has also been identified as the foreign trustee of the Reston company, which broadcasts Sputnik’s signal in the United States. At the time of this writing, RIA Global LLC had not yet appeared on the Justice Department’s online registry of foreign agents.
Over the course of 2017, evidence emerged that Russian actors posted advertisements and content on US-facing sites leading up to the 2016 election to influence…
Russian officials on January 8 rejected an accusation by CIA Director Mike Pompeo that Russia is attempting to interfere in U.S. congressional elections this year and has been meddling in U.S. elections “for decades.”
A senior White House official says the Kremlin has launched a sophisticated campaign to influence Mexico’s 2018 presidential election, a video obtained by a Mexican newspaper shows.
And it’s been doing it a lot more in the past three years.
The Dataverse Project is an open source software application to share, cite and archive data. Dataverse provides a robust infrastructure for data stewards to host and archive data, while offering researchers an easy way to share and get credit for their data.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.
“I said he was a xenophobic, race-baiting religious bigot. I ran out of things to say. He won.”
Two U.S. senators have called for a criminal investigation of a former British spy who authored a salacious report about Donald Trump when he was a businessman, a report known as the Steele Dossier.
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is suing BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over Christopher Steele’s Russia dossier.
Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the discredited Russia-Trump dossier, has told friends that his 16 memos — 35 pages in length — were close to flawless.
Mr. Bannon, closely associated with the right-wing news site in recent years, has lost support with conservative backers as President Trump denounced him.
Steve Bannon was forced out of his job at Breitbart News last night after a vicious feud with President Trump. The sacking humbled a provocateur who fancied
U.S. President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has reaffirmed his support for Trump and praised his eldest son as “both a patriot and a good man.”
The former White House chief strategist had already drafted a statement praising the president and his son but then Trump said he had “lost his mind.”
U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman has sued Special Counsel Robert Mueller, alleging that the prosecutor overreached by pursuing charges that are unrelated to his mission to inv…
A company owned by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has filed a lawsuit against Paul Manafort, former head of Trump’s electoral campaign, and …
President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was sued by a company tied to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who claims he was defrauded after giving $18.9 million to Manafort to invest in a Ukrainian cable television venture.
Bloomberg: Manafort sued by Russian billionaire Deripaska over Ukraine deal. View news feed in world news for 10 January from UNIAN Information Agency
California Democratic House hopeful Harley Rouda is taking the accusations of Russia collusion to his potential opponent, Rep.
“They said, like, ‘Look, you have more of a social media following than any of us do, can you please post some of these things just in a way that… sort of put it out there.’”
For the past three days, Sen. John McCain’s office has not responded to Breitbart News phone and email inquiries seeking clarification on…
The president’s claim that he canceled because of a “bad” embassy deal was widely seen as an excuse.