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Russia / Russophone Reports
The ministers reiterated the fact that the international community would not acknowledge Russia’s claims to Crimea and that they would further condemn the illegal annexation and militarization of the Ukrainian peninsula.
Polling in Russia-annexed region may further isolate Moscow, alienate politically neutral Russians already impacted by sanctions
The Russian embassy in Ukraine expressed indignation with the statement of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs that on March 18 in a diplomatic institution of the Russian Federation only individuals with diplomatic status will be allowed to vote – Russian embassy outraged by Ukraine’s refusal to hold elections in its consulates – 112.international
The Russian embassy in Ukraine expressed indignation with the statement of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs that on March 18 in a diplomatic institution of the Russian Federation only individuals with diplomatic status will be allowed to vote
Most of Washington is scared to meet with Russians. Jon Huntsman wants to meet as many as possible.
The rising U.S. output comes largely on the back of onshore shale oil production.
A tender, and the Presidential election, would make a cancellation extremely embarrassing.
Russia has sold $4 billion in debt on the Eurobond market in London despite rapidly escalating tensions with Britain and the West.
Robust internal networks will keep the military and government operating, says Putin’s top IT advisor.
Paul Goble Staunton, March 8 – Many of Vladimir Putin’s supporters only ten days ago were expressing concern that he had not launched his campaign with the kind of speeches that would mobilize the population around his plans for the next six years. But such people may now be thinking that it might have been better if the Kremlin leader had continued his silence. Not only did he engage in an inventive presentation about wonder weapons in his address to the Federal Assembly and suggest that if Russia were annihilated, there would be no reason for the rest of the world to be allowed to exist, but now he has shared views on the role of God in Russian history and on Russians as a target of Hitler’s Holocaust that many may find worrisome. In the new film “World Order 2018” put together by journalist Vladimir Solovyev and now spreading across social networks, Putin cites with approval the words of an 18th century Russian military commander that “Russia has indisputable advantages before other countries because it is directly ruled by God. If this is not so, then its existence can’t be explained.” Reporting this, one of Putin’s supporters gushes that “Russia is ruled by God, and Putin himself speaks about this because he understand that as strong as he is, he is only a man. When a ruler knows that over him is Something more, he enters into history in an entirely different manner” (cont.ws/@severro/875491). Other people are likely to draw an entirely different conclusion from the Kremlin leader’s words. Some are also likely to view two of Putin’s other comments in ways very far from how he would like them to. Asked by Solovyev about whether the Kremlin leader thinks that “Russia is losing its identity,” Putin made clear, his supporter says, “that this is impossible.” “No,” Putin specified. “We value it very highly. What does the loss of identity mean? The end of the existence of the ethnos. Russians, other peoples of Russia, Tatars, Jews … some practice Orthodoxy; and others of these Russians [and he uses the ethnic term russkiye rather than the political one rossiisskye] practice Islam. But all the same this is who we are.” Many non-Russians and especially non-Orthodox nationalities will be less than pleased by this open display of Russian chauvinism, however much some Russian nationalists and imperialists will like it. In the film, Solovyev declared that “the only reason why Hitler has not yet been rehabilitated is the Holocaust, the mass destruction of Jews by the Nazis. While agreeing that the Holocaust is a tragedy, Vladimir Putin,” his supporter says, “calls for not forgetting that other peoples suffered from the crimes of the Nazis and in the first instance the Russians.” “The Jews do not forget how they were destroyed during World War II and they are right to do so,” Putin says. “But there are approximately similar analogous tragedies in the history of other peoples. I’m not talking about small peoples: the Roma were wiped out almost completely. Bu the Slavs? And the Russians were killed in massive numbers.” Putin continues: “One can read about this in the documents which lie in the archives. What fate were [the Nazis] preparing for the Russian people? Wiping out some and using some of them as forced laborers … and dispatching the remainder to the Urals and the North to die out.” “That is the very same Holocaust only in relation to the Russian people. This must not be forgotten in any case, not in order to accuse someone but in order that this will never be repeated.” That the Nazis killed millions of Russians and that they planned to kill even more are not disputed by anyone, but at least some people will be concerned that Putin has elevated that from the status of a genocide, which it certainly was, to that of the Holocaust which was a unique act of evil.
Paul Goble Staunton, March 9 – The fundamental if often unrecognized paradox of Russia under the rule of Vladimir Putin is that the country has made giant strides in regaining its sovereignty but that at the same time it has put itself at risk of losing its national identity, according to influential Eurasianist Aleksandr Dugin. In a Zavtra commentary, Dugin says that the recovery of state sovereignty is very important because only “a sovereign state does what it wants.” And sovereignty” he continues, “abolishes the idea of international law, the system of treaties which are constantly changing among sovereign subjects” (zavtra.ru/blogs/russkie_na_grani_poteri_identichnosti). “Several sovereign states can force another sovereign state to do or not do something,” he suggests, “but this is a decision based on force and not on law.” At the same time, Dugin argues, “the sovereignty of one state ends where the sovereignty of another is in effect.” Only liberals rely on international law and seek to reduce sovereignty to something as small as possible. With regard to sovereignty, Putin has achieved an enormous amount by having decided to pursue “the strengthening of sovereignty which was lost in the 1990s.” According to Dugin, “when our rulers have strengthened sovereignty, they have covered themselves with glory; when they have lost it, shame. This measure of sovereignty remains in Russia to this day.” But the situation with regard to identity is less good, the Eurasianist thinker says. “Identity is the state of the people, of the popular spirit, and of society which transmits Tradition and preserves that which was before. We are a Russian and Orthodox people. Culture in language, faith, and many small elements is what makes Russians Russians.” According to Dugin, “identity at a minimum involves three people: the father, the man and the son.” It is something which is handed down from one generation to another, and with this, “we now have problems” because identity in our society is ill and we are on the brink of losing it.” Sovereignty and identity are interrelated, of course. For example, “under Peter, we strengthened sovereignty but lost identity; under Nicholas, we gained enormous sovereignty and began to restore identity.” But then something fell apart, and Russians lost both until the Bolsheviks “gradually restored sovereignty and completely changed identity.” “Now sovereignty is on the rise,” Dugin continues. That is good, but Russian identity is in trouble and is “degrading.” “We have lost Soviet meanings, the model of monarchy looks at present like a caricature … and nationalism is flawed and pathetic.” Dugin concludes: “this paradox defines the time in which we live. Let us hope” that having recovered sovereignty, Russians can now do something similar with identity.
Exactly four years after Crimea’s illegal annexation, Russia is holding yet another so-called presidential election. Artists diligently play their roles in a play called “election race”, while the final is evident to all – the tsar retains his seat in the Kremlin for at least another six years. UNIAN spoke with a Russian opposition politician Leonid Gozman to hear his views on how this will all go down what is likely to follow. UNIAN sat down with Leonid Gozman, the former co-chairman of the Pravoye Delo [Just Cause] Party and ex-member of the political council of the Union of Right Forces, to find out what the international community, Ukraine, and ordinary Russians should expect from Putin’s next six years in power. Today, Leonid is a member of the public council of the Russian Jewish Congress and also one of the few public politicians left in Russia who keeps openly criticizing the Russian president for invading Ukraine and pursuing his aggressive foreign policy. Next Sunday, Vladimir Putin will be once again re-elected. What is the key message of his new presidential term? Putin announced his willingness to defend the country to the last man and the last drop of blood, despite the fact that no one really threatens the country in reality. Putin presents such an eerie, frightening picture of the world where we [Russia] are the source of light and good, justice and so on, while the rest are all enemies craving to destroy us. The saddest thing is that this is exactly the message that lies in the core of his popular support. Now he needs a high share of votes and high turnout. We should not rule out that after March 18 [the election date] he will try to change the Constitution in order to remain in power for life and become someone of the type of Iran’s spiritual leader, the Ayatollah… In order to achieve his goal, he needs to see top results as a moral justification. Therefore, he tells the public about thing that he deems most important for the people – our missiles (existing or non-existing, but that’s a separate matter) and the country’s readiness to wage war. These are the ideologems on which the current president of the Russian Federation stands. Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/politics/10039016-russian-opposition-s-leonid-gozman-the-russian-regime-today-is-similar-to-that-of-mussolini-we-must-make-sure-that-after-putin-is-replaced-by-someone-else-this-will-not-be-hitler.html
Paul Goble Staunton, March 12 – A basic principle of Moscow’s approach to Islam in the North Caucasus since the 1990s has been that the Russian authorities cooperate with what they define as “traditional Islam” in the officially recognized mosques and Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSDs) in exchange for the latter’s willingness to help the center combat extremist groups. That cooperation has brought Moscow some advantages, but now, in what appears to reflect both concern that “the traditionalists” aren’t fully loyal and confidence that the Russian authorities can attack this ally without major risks, Moscow has changed course and began to move against this group of Muslims. Such a shift is not without risks: It deprives the central government of a useful ally in the fight against extremism, and it increases the likelihood that at least some of the “traditionalists” will decide that they should make common cause with more radical groups against Russian state power. In either case, what Moscow is doing now likely ensures that conflicts between the Russian government and its agents in place and the Muslim community in the North Caucasus are going to heat up, requiring either the use of more coercive measures or a change in Moscow’s course. Amina Suleymanova of the OnKavkaz news agency says “Moscow has been frightened by the influence and political ambitions of the muftiates in the North Caucasus Federal District” and has decided to put the MSDs in their place by attacking and weakening them (onkavkaz.com/news/2155-moskva-ispugalas-vlijanija-i-politicheskih-ambicii-dum-kavkaza-nachinaetsja-operacija-reorganiz.html). Over the last several months, she points out, siloviki in the North Caucasus have attacked institutions linked to local MSDs, something unheard of in the past. And to consider this development, she interviews Bagaudin Khautiyev, head of the Coordinating Council of Youth Organizations in Ingushetia, and a Daghestani journalist who spoke on conditions of anonymity. Khautiyev says that “there are no doubts” that the moves by the siloviki have grown out of conflicts between the Ingush MSD and the republic government which resents its pretensions. But many in the republic are appalled that the republic leadership would attack institutions involving children as they just have. The republic government wants to have the last say on MSD activities, but “personally,” he says, “the mufiate should not be subordinate to the authorities, as according to the constitution, religion is separate from the state.” But he goes on to suggest that more may be going on here than meets the eye. “It is completely possible,” Khautiyev continues, “that the federal center doesn’t need centralized MSDs anymore. Earlier they were needed for a time for the struggle with so-called non-traditional trends of Islam in Russia but now that need has declined.” The Daghestani journalist agrees that the authorities need the MSDs less than they did but sees the siloviki attacks on mosques and MSDs as reflecting less than then the pretensions of the muftiates for positions of power in the republics. Suleymanova notes that radical Muslim groups have frequently suggested that “as soon as the authorities finish dealing with them, the siloviki will inevitably begin to pressure the official muftiates.” Khautiyev doesn’t think so, but the Daghestani journalist says that there is some truth in it because of the enormous power the MSD and its subordinates now have. Their position, the Daghestani says, would make any government nervous; and the siloviki have an interest in finding someone new to attack. When there aren’t enough ISIS groups, then going after the “traditional” Muslims works just as well. “Today,” he continues, “the muftiate of Daghestan has its own newspapers, its own television channel, an enormous network of stores, restaurants and various commercial structures. It continues to be involved in the organization of the haj;” and its influence in highland areas is “practically unlimited.” The MSD is becoming increasingly politicized backing candidates and winning elections at the local and regional level and even nominating a candidate – the wife of the head of the MSD – for president of Russia. She was excluded; but Moscow is clearly worried about traditional Muslims having such a political position. Khautiyev agrees that such activities – and they are occurring in Ingushetia as well – worry the local government and Moscow. It is important to recognize, he says, that “never, not in any circumstances will the federal center allow the politicization of Islam” even if it is traditional and loyal. The latest moves by the authorities reflect an effort to block that possibility, he says, something with which the anonymous Daghestani journalist agrees. He suggests in turn that everyone will be able to see that Moscow has turned the corner if and when it moves against the traditional MSD’s economic activities.
Paul Goble Staunton, March 9 – Moscow has been concerned about the number of North Caucasians who have gone to Syria to fight for ISIS against the Asad dictatorship, but the Russian government may have even more reason to be worried by the objections of people in that region to their sons being sent to Syria to fight and in some cases die for Asad. One of the soldiers who died in the March 6th crash of the AN-26 military transit plane was an Ingush, and while regional officials have celebrated his heroism in various ways, his death has provoked some bloggers to express their outrage about his being sent there to die (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/317573/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter). One, who uses the screen name Desert Eagle 50 Caliber expressed his anger by asking “what was [the dead soldier] doing there?” and another, who uses the name Bogatyrev71 said pointedly “Our boys must be returned home. There aren’t so many of us, each Ingush matters, and our children must not die for some alien fratricidal civil war.” That is only one way Putin’s war in Syria is coming home to the Russian Federation. Another, which Dozhd TV reported yesterday, is growing anger among some in the North Caucasus that different republics there are treating those who are returning from fighting for ISIS are being treated (tvrain.ru/teleshow/reportazh/iz_halifata_za_reshetku-459102/). Chechnya is allowing those who return to reintegrate quickly into the life of the republic. Daghestan is charging them with crimes and putting them behind bars. And fears of what the Ingush Republic government may do has so far kept anyone who fought in ISIS from seeking to return there. Those differences, the independent TV channel says, are sparking discussions. Those discussions, of course, are not the kind Moscow wants to see. On the one hand, they open the question as to why people from the Russian Federation are choosing to fight for the Islamic state. And on the other, they call into question the Kremlin’s constant refrain that it has established a common legal space in the country.
The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration recently published a study that says Moscow’s support for right-wing groups in Europe and the U.S. is causing tangible harm to Russia’s image abroad, without producing many meaningful benefits.
A group of Russia’s wealthiest people added $29.5 billion to their collective net worth during President Vladimir Putin’s latest presidential term, recouping steep losses following his annexation of Crimea.
Paul Goble Staunton, March 12 – One hundred years ago today, Vladimir Lenin moved the Soviet government from Peter the Great’s window on Europe to Moscow, a move taken because of the threat German forces represented to Petrograd but one that Lenin and the senior Bolsheviks recognized was and remains freighted with meaning, Accompanying Lenin and Krupskaya in their car from the railroad station to the Kremlin was the Soviet leader’s secretary, Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich, a highly educated specialist on religious minorities and on Marxism, and in a pamphlet describing their entry into the Kremlin, he noted that “all were silent” because they recognized “a new Muscovite period” had begun. For Marxists as the Bolsheviks professed themselves to be, that was no small thing given Karl Marx’ observation that “the bloody mire of Mongolian slavery, not the rude glory of the Norman epoch, forms the cradle of Muscovy,” Marx wrote, adding that “modern Russia is but a metamorphosis of Muscovy” (marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/marx/works/1857/russia/ch04.htm). On this anniversary, most Russian commentators, of course, are focusing on Lenin’s desire to put his government beyond the reach of German forces – see for exampleprofile.ru/culture/item/125183-ot-pitera-do-moskvy. But as the Muscovite state approaches its pseudo-elections, the historiosophical meaning of the transfer of capitals may be more important. An important contribution to understanding that meaning is provided by an article on the Nationalities Accent portal by Yuliya Bobkova on “how the peoples of Russia chose their fates,” that is, in her view, equivalent to their choice of leaders (nazaccent.ru/content/26748-vybor-raznyh.html). She begins by noting that “honest and just elections are the main sign of democracy, but democracy as is well-known, is ‘the worst form of government except for all the others.’ Over its more than a thousand-year history, the Russian state has known various types of rule, and with elections, some of our peoples were acquainted much earlier than residents of Western Europe.” Bobkova points to Novgorod Veliki whose veche was more representative of the adult population for most of its existence between 862 and 1478 than was the city government of London, to the Setu who have elected a king for centuries, the peoples of the North Caucasus who have chosen councils of elders, and the Cossacks who also elected their atamans. Sadly, she can’t point to any democratic tradition in Muscovy and she doesn’t point to the obvious: all of these democratic experiments were killed off not by their own people but by the centralized Russian state, most often in Moscow – yet another indication that the problem in this regard is not Russia but rather Moscow. That was something even Marx understood.
Paul Goble Staunton, March 11 – The most widespread form of protest in Russia today are strikes by workers to force their employers to pay wages; and in more than 80 percent of the cases, they succeed in forcing their bosses to pay them all or part of what they are owed, Yekaterina Schulmann of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service. The notion that protests aren’t effective, she says, arises because many view protests as being about the overthrow of the regime. In fact, that is a misconception inherited from Soviet times. Most protests are very much within system. Unfortunately, those that are rarely get the media attention they deserve (mbk.media/sences/starye-i-novye-formy/). Schulmann’s observations came at a roundtable organized by Moscow’s Sakharov Center about protest activity in Russia. Among the opinions offered by other participants were the following: · Denis Volkov of the Levada Center says protests are a lagging indicator relative to attitudes to the actions of those in power. That is people have to be angry for some time before they protest. “At present,” he says, “one doesn’t see dissatisfaction with people in the authorities.” · Aleksandra Arkhipova of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service says that “today protest has moved into the Internet space,” wholly or in part. Many think the Internet organizes protests but in fact in most cases the Internet spreads the views of those who take part in other forms. · Yuliya Galyamina of the Higher School of Economics and a deputy in Moscow’s Timiryazev district council says that “the municipal campaign also showed that elections for citizens all the same remain a form of protest, but a protest not against the elections as such but against the political situation as a whole. If people can’t influence global issues, then they take steps to influence the political picture at least at the local level.” · Grigory Durnovo of the OVD Info Project says that despite official pressure, protests are breaking out in ever more places.
Paul Goble Staunton, March 10 — Fifty-eight percent of Russians with a net worth of 50 million US dollars or more have dual citizenship, and 45 percent say they would consider moving permanently to live in another country, both higher figures than even in Latin America where 41 percent say the currently have a second passport. These figures from The Wealth Report 2018 prepared by the Frank King Consulting Company were reported in Russia in Moscow’s Gazeta newspaper earlier this week (gazeta.ru/business/2018/03/07/11675077.shtml). Not surprisingly, they have raised questions about the ultimate loyalties of these supposed pillars of the Putin regime. One Russian blogger, who writes under the screen name El Murid, says there is “nothing particularly new in this research.” It has long been known that wealth in Russia is highly concentrated and that those with the most money think first and foremost about keeping it rather than promoting the development of their homeland. “It couldn’t be otherwise,” he argues, “because in the framework of the Western capitalist system, Russia always will be in the position of a colony; and this means that the only significant motive for any native administration will be exporting capital and acquiring foreign citizenship” (zen.yandex.ru/media/el_murid/nacionalno-orientirovannaia-elita-5aa2661a77d0e614e1ca293b). Consequently, El Murid continues, “with this elite, the country has not future and cannot have one. Either it has a future or we do. The two can’t exist for long at one and the same time.” And as it become clearer what the facts are, he says, Russia “is approaching a stage when regardless of anyone’s desires, the question of its transformation arises.” The existing system is in fact “already in its agony.” Changing it, like changing any other system is “always a revolutionary process; and like in any revolution, the most important question besides that about power, of course, becomes” if put in simplest terms “who will pay” and who will benefit. In a country like Russia where one tenth of one percent owns a predominant share of the economy, the answer is “obvious: either they will pay or the rest of the people will” because “there are no other resources for carrying out revolutionary transformations,” El Murid continues. That does not mean, however, “that a revolution (from above or from below) will lead to any particular result. It isn’t enough to have resources; one must be able to effectively make use of them.” Given that the current regime is the most ineffective in the history of the country, El Murid argues, any revolution from above almost certainly would reflect that reality. But a revolution from below might not achieve anything either. Most recent revolutionary attempts from below have failed. El Murid concludes that despite that and despite the fact that many knew about the real attachments of the current Russia elites, “such investigations are good to the extent that they show who precisely is the enemy of the future of the country and who precisely must be liquidated in a political and economic sense for the country to have a chance for a future.”
Paul Goble Staunton, March 10 – Over the past 15 years, opportunities in Russia’s regions have increased to the point that their residents “often feel much more successful than do Muscovites and Petersburgers, according to a new study carried out by scholars at the Moscow Institute of Sociology. The study, Capitals and Regions in Present-Day Russia: Myths and Realities 15 Years Later (in Russian, Moscow: Ves Mir, 2018; 312 pages), compares survey data from the first years of Putin’s rule with new polls conducted in the last year or two (lenta.ru/articles/2018/03/09/provincial/). One of its authors, Svetlana Mareyeva, says that improving conditions in the regions mean that “the conflict between Moscow and Russia is disappearing” and that as a result, fewer people from the provinces feel they have no choice but to move to the center in order to make good careers. But another, she says, is that the economic crisis has hit residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg harder than it has hit others, something people in the provinces can see and that has had a major impact on how they assess both their own position and its relationship to possibilities in the capital. In terms of most objective measures, Mareyeva continues, “life has improved in all types of settlement both in rural areas and in cities.” Moreover, “life has become more similar.” Today it is much less important “whether you live in Samara or in Moscow” to predict what you own and what your life chances are. In both places, the sociologist says, “people have approximately the same selection of durable consumer goods, technology and property; and there is the Internet and mobile links. Fifteen years ago, the differences were significant.” There are still differences, but they have “begun to decline.” Of course, “the megalopolises offer more opportunities beyond any doubt. But there too a rapprochement is taking place.” And that convergence is affecting how people in both places evaluate their own situations and their comparisons with life in the other. Fifteen years ago, everyone said big cities provided the best opportunities; now, people in both places are divided. Indeed, Mareyeva continues, “the share of those who say that it is easier to achieve a number of things in the provinces is significant.” That is most notable in small towns and villages, less so in small and mid-sized cities. But Russians now see more equal chances in education and employment between Moscow and elsewhere. These trends mean that “some major oblast centers have the chance to represent an alternative to the capitals” for many Russians, surveys show. And that means that in this regard, “the conflict which existed between Moscow and the entire rest of Russia 15 years ago is disappearing,” all the more so because the big cities have suffered more from the crisis. But there is another factor at work: residents of the capital are more critical of how much they have achieved than are people in smaller cities where a far higher percentage of people feel they have been successful. In Moscow, “every tenth resident thinks that he or she has not done anything significant.” Nonetheless, the sociologist says, the surveys show key differences among rural residents, residents of smaller cities and people in the capital city. “For residents of the capital freedom is important, that is, ‘to be master of oneself,’ and to have variety in one’s life.” For those in smaller cities, what matters is the respect of those around them. And “in rural areas, people most often talk about the possibility of living no worse than others.” Only 15 percent of Russians connect success with wealth, and 11 percent with prestige property. In Moscow, people connect success with high positions, but only 17 percent of them do so. Single digits link success with power in all three categories. “The nominal indicators of incomes in Moscow and St. Petersburg always were higher, and they are so today as well. But life there is much more expensive.” Moreover, 15 years ago, there were fewer people in middle income groups and more at the top and the bottom in Moscow than was the case elsewhere. “But over the last 10 to 15 years, the Moscow and Petersburg models have become more similar to those in the provinces.” On the one hand, that is good because it reduces tensions. But on the other, it reflects a tendency that is dangerous in the long term: the devaluation and reduction of investment in education for oneself and one’s children. Now, the sociologist says, Russians in both cities and rural areas “do not see any need” to do so. Education is less important for many jobs, while “at the same time, the number of workers with mid or lower level qualifications is growing.” As education has declined in importance so too have the places where it is offered.
Paul Goble Staunton, March 13 – Putin’s greatest success has been in getting Russians and many others to call things in Russia by other than their real names, but everything about his system becomes clear if one uses not his terms for this or that phenomenon but rather the proper terms for it, Arkady Babchenko says. In a comment on the Kasparov portal, the Moscow commentator says that this simple act of replacing false names with real ones clarifies things almost instantly and provides the best possible guidance on how everyone should respond in ways different that Vladimir Putin and his regime want (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AA6995DCB00A). When the Putin media use the expression “elections of the President of the Russian Federation in Crimea,” that immediately raises many questions. How can this be? Should one take part or not? Should one vote for one of the opposition candidates? Or perhaps not vote at all,” Babchenko continues. But if one recognizes that each of the words the Putin regime uses is intended to hide reality and to mislead people and then substitutes for them the words that in fact describe the situation, everything becomes instantly clear. “There are no elections of the President of the Russian Federation in Crimea. Because to start with, there is no such thing as a Federation. A federation is a state formation in which the subjects have the right to a definite degree of independence. Russia is a unitary state administrated not just from one center but by one man.” Moreover, Babchenko continues, “there is no President because a President is an elected position and Vladimir Putin is a usurper. He seized power by force. There are no elections because elections are a FREE expression of the will of citizens, with all candidates having access to the media, the opportunity to form parties and register, honest voting and so on.” Instead, what is happening in Russia on March 18 is “a forced special operation to extend the term of the usurper on the throne. And there is no Russian region called ‘Crimea.’ What there is is occupied Ukrainian territory. Consequently, there are no ‘elections of the President of the Russian Federation in Crimea.” Rather, Babchenko concludes, there is “an operation of the occupation command under the direction of a gauleiter for territories that have been seized.” And he notes that with the correct terminology, all questions fall away and answer themselves, albeit not in ways the Kremlin wants. It is long past time for everyone to “call things by their own names.”
John Sweeney was investigating how the Russian state discredits its critics when it happened.
The annexation of Crimea is illegal, Russian authorities are guilty of human rights violation in Crimea, Ukraine impedes “the only Russian politician, who supports its national sovereignty, visit the state under the law”. Ksenia Sobchak, the candidate for Russian presidential election, wrote this on Instagram. She stressed that she applied with the request letter to Ukraine’s Border Guard Service asking to visit Crimea.
Poklonskaya also warned Ukraine against relying on its western partners as far as development issues were concerned
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who opposed Moscow’s seizure of Crimea and is now in prison in Russia, is “ready to ask for clemency” in order to be exchanged for Russian nationals held in Ukrain…
The director of a private school in Russia’s Tatarstan region has been fined for refusing to drop mandatory Tatar-language classes.
Russian riot police have violently dispersed dozens of protesters in the town of Volokolamsk, where they had gathered to demonstrate against a landfill site local authorities say has contaminated t…
Paul Goble Staunton, March 8 – Perhaps the only thing more striking than Donald Trump’s unwillingness to criticize Vladimir Putin regardless of what the Kremlin leader does is Putin’s continuing to make a clear distinction between the US president whom he appears to trust and the United States whom he sees as Russia’s main enemy. In recent remarks, Svobodnaya pressa journalist Aleksey Verkhoyantsev points out, the Kremlin leader has denounced the US for its role in Ukraine but gone out of his say to stress that he is “not disappointed” in Donald Trump “with whom,” Putin insists, “it is possible to reach agreements and find compromises” (http://svpressa.ru/politic/article/194835/). “I have no disappointment at all in my partner,” the Russian president continues, “but ever greater disappointment in the system. Here one cannot but be disappointed because it demonstrates is obvious ineffectiveness and is eating itself alive” (cf, report in ria.ru/world/20180307/1515920338.html). Stanislav Byshok, an analyst at the CIS-EMO Monitoring Organization, tells Verkhoyantsev that “Putin’s words to the effect that everything isn’t so bad and that Trump isn’t hopeless and that relations with the US could improve are no more than a nod to traditions” since the end of Soviet times. “We understand that meetings of Russian leaders with their American colleagues have been accompanied by hopes for ‘the next reset,’ improvements and relations. In this case,” he continues, “Putin said with a high degree of probability exactly what he would have said if Hillary Clinton had been elected US president.” According to the analyst, “it is not in the interests of Russia to make confrontational declarations personally against the US president and it would be strange if Putin didn’t understand that.” But in this case, there are also two other factors that must be taken into consideration. “It is obvious,” Byshok says, “that the promises Trump made about Russia during his campaign were made completely sincerely” and he has much in common with Putin: “They both maintain the image of a strong leader, both are inclined to conservatism, and ideologically they are close to one another.” But Trump is not in a position to define US relations with Russia on his own. “The institutions of the presidency in the US and in Russia are quite different things, and it would be naïve to expect that as a result of the personal sympathies of Putin and Trump would be defined the relationship of the two countries.” Not only can Trump not afford to be too forthcoming about Russia given media coverage of the issue of Russian interference in the American elections and the attacks by Democrats and conservatives on Trump for his proffered friendship with Putin lest he be weakened, but the American system has “checks and balances” that prevent anyone from acting unilaterally. And consequently, “it would be strange to expect that the American president ‘would love Russia’ more than the political mainstream does, whose views he is focused on and on which he depends.” And as Putin has been pointing out since at least 2007, the American consensus is far from friendly to Russia. As a result, in its dealing with the US, “Russia now acts according to the principle which is ascribed to Al Capone: ‘with the help of a kind word and a pistol you can achieve much more than with a kind word alone.”
Paul Goble Staunton, March 9 – Stanislav Belkovsky, a political analyst who serves as an advisor to Russian presidential candidate Kseniya Sobchak, says that “at present, the Islamic regions of the North Caucasus are de facto beyond the borders of the political and legal space of the Russian Federation, which are themselves far from perfect but nonetheless exist.” “The Kremlin is trying to do something in this regard,” he continues, giving as an example the imposition of a Russian police general on Daghestan. But Belkovsky says that will not solve the problem (youtube.com/watch?v=L9B2noP3Jc8&feature=youtu.be&t=25m25s; summarized at kavkazr.com/a/29088660.html). According to Belkovsky, “given the existing level of corruption, of the psychological dependence of Vladimir Putin on the authorities of Chechnya and Ramzan Akhmatovich Kadyrov personally, there can’t be any radical changes” in where these Islamic republics are or are heading. Consequently, “a decision needs to be made about whether these republics will return and whether they want to return (on the level of a certain intra-elite consensus) into the political-legal space of our united country. If they don’t, then perhaps they should be offered the choice up to complete state independence.” Belkovsky acknowledges that sometimes his views are different than those of the candidate he supports, but many in the North Caucasus and perhaps many more elsewhere in Russia will see his remarks on this point as indicative of her views, gaining her support in some quarters, Russian and non-Russian alike, and costing her backing in others.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) says its units have foiled “terrorists” who were planning to carry out an attack near the southwest city Saratov, killing an undisclosed number of “crimi…
A Russian man has been taken into custody in the southern French city of Marseille in connection with an attack at the Euro 2016 soccer tournament in which an English fan was seriously injured.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has become the latest woman to accuse influential Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment.
In a real democracy, many opinions can exist in harmony.
Russian investigators say no foul play is suspected in the discovery of a bag containing nearly two dozen amputated human hands that washed up this week on an island near the Far Eastern city of Kh…
Immediately after the plane took off, one of its back doors fell off.
A belief that the blood of Siberian red deer antlers has health benefits has fueled the practice of blood bathing and an industry of products that rights groups say are barbaric.
A Russian photographer explores her ancestral ties to a tiny town that has been isolated for centuries—and wants to stay that way.
The photographer using an iPhone to document life on the margins of Russian society.
Paul Goble Staunton, March 11 – Global warming is leading to the erosion of shorelines in the Russian north by as much as four meters a year and to approximately one accident there every three days involving power stations, roads, gas and oil pipelines, and other infrastructure, according to analysts at the emergency services ministry. The ministry’s All-Russian Center for Monitoring and Predicting Extraordinary Events says these developments are especially worrisome because of the importance of the Northern Sea Route to Moscow’s plans and because of the presence of atomic power stations and the basing of nuclear-powered ice breakers (ria.ru/science/20180311/1516099271.html). Other facilities in the North that may become the source of technogenic accidents include “chemically dangerous and explosive objects and important elements of communications,” all of which are worrisome. But some things, the center says, are absolutely predictable like the erosion of the coastline. Among the areas most profoundly affected, the center continues, are Chukotka, the Kolyma and Indigirka river estuaries, most of the Western Siberian lowland, the shoreline of the Kars Sea, Novaya Zemlya, and also the areas in the north of European Russia where the permafrost is melting especially quickly. Because these are major oil and gas producing regions and the site of numerous military facilities, the center says, the Russian authorities are concerned that last year alone “more than 100” events occurred in which roads, housing, pipelines or other facilities were harmed. Unless preventing measures are taken, such events will affect Russia’s economy and national security.
Central Asia / Caucasus Reports
An outspoken Tashkent imam has tried to explain ways to prevent having a gay child.
Paul Goble Staunton, March 11 – For more than 25 years, the author of these lines has been both amused and appalled by Moscow’s creation and then denunciation of what it views is a “Goble Plan” for the resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan (reliefweb.int/report/armenia/how-goble-plan-was-born-and-how-it-remains-political-factor). Now Moscow analyst Aleksey Pakholin has taken up the cudgels of what he sees as a second “Goble Plan” that a Moscow paper attacked five years ago (segodnia.ru/content/131788) but that supposedly has been resuscitated by Kazakh nationalists who have reprinted this 2013 attack (altyn-orda.kz/o-kovarnyh-zamyslah-kazahov-v-otnoshenii-tatar-i-bashkir/). In his article (fondsk.ru/news/2018/03/10/kazahskie-nacionalisty-vspomnili-ob-orenburgskom-koridore-45740.html), Pakholin says that “the plan” was outlined by “CIA veteran Paul Goble” in an article on the website of Washington’s Jamestown Foundation (jamestown.org/program/the-orenburg-corridor-and-the-future-of-the-middle-volga/). Goble’s ideas that have now been picked up by the Kazakh nationalists, the Moscow commentator says, are based on the notion that Stalin’s formation of the Orenburg corridor to divide Kazakhstan from the Turkic and Finno-Ugric peoples of the Middle Volga kept them from achieving independence in 1991 because they did not have an external border. But this situation isn’t forever, Goble and the Kazakhs argue, in Pakholin’s telling. The Orenburg corridor could “cease to exist” because the number of Turkic Muslims there is growing, because territorial propinquity isn’t as important as it once was, and because people may recall that a century ago no such Russian “’corridor’” existed. Today, Pakholin quotes my 2013 article, “this corridoc could finally be transformed from a wall which keeps the republics of the Middle Volga within the Russian Federation into a bridge which would allow them to achieve their goals and separate Moscow from Siberia” and allow that region to go its own way as well. But then the Moscow analyst offers his own version of history. The West, he says, has long wanted to separate Siberia from the rest of Russia and was interested in the Turkic peoples of the Middle Volga only to the extent that they could block Moscow’s ability to project power beyond the Urals. “Only now,” Pakholin continues, “in plans for liquidating ‘the Orenburg corridor,’ the main role is being given not to the North Caucasus but to Kazakhstan;” and the Kazakh nationalists are responding. Altyn Ordy’s editor say that “in the not distant future,” Kazakhstan could become “the guarantor of the independence of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.” “Kazakhstan,” he argues, “is considered by Kazakh national patriots as the heir of the Golden Horde, in which sometimes were included not only the tribes of the Kazakhs who were earlier called Kyrgyz Kaysaks but also Tatars, Bashkirs and other peoples of the Volga and Urals regions.” Consequently, the collapse of the Golden Horde, the rise of Muscovite Rus, and the formation of the Russian Empire” are viewed by such people as “a relatively short-lived episode” and things that can be done away with in the future, Pakholin says. Moreover, “they make territorial claims not only on Orenburg which between 1920 and 1925 was the capital of the Kyrgyz (Kazakh) ASSR within the RSFSR but also other cities around which at one time Turkic khanates arose – Omsk, Tyumen, Astrakhan, Samara, Saratov and others.” To give an idea of what such Kazakhs are thinking, he offers quotations from three commentaries to the reprint of the 2013 article last week: One wrote that Orenburg, once the capital of Kazakhstan, was joined to Russsia “so that Tatarstan and Bashkortostan wouldn’t have a way out.” A second noted that Moscow had done the same thing to Ukraine, taking away the Kuban so that Kazakhstan and Ukraine wouldn’t have a common border. And a third declared: “Tatarstan and Bashkortostan must receive independence … I fear that Russia will lose much more than the notorious Cossack Orenburg region.” Pakholin then concludes that the fact that Kazakh nationalists are now picking up on “plans developed in the bowels of the CIA is a worrisome symptom.”
HOW THE ‘GOBLE PLAN’ WAS BORN… Because I was “present at the creation” of an idea that has taken on a life of its own, I welcome this opportunity to describe how this “plan” was born as well as to discuss what role I think it might play in the future. Like most parents, I have been both pleased and disappointed with my offspring. In January 1992, shortly after I had resigned from my position as special advisor on Soviet nationality problems and Baltic affairs at the U.S. Department of State, I prepared a background paper on the Karabakh conflict for former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who was planning to visit the south Caucasus. In that paper, I both described the history of that conflict and offered some thoughts on how it might be resolved. At the end of that 3,300 word essay, subsequently published in the “Fletcher Forum”(1992), I wrote the following lines: “In principle, there are three ways to “solve” the Nagorno-Karabakh problem: driving out or killing all Armenians now there, reimposing enormous outside force to keep the two sides apart, or transferring the NKAO to Armenian control. The first of these is morally impossible, the second is probably physically impossible, and the third is politically impossible if it is done alone because it would leave Azerbaijan the loser both territorially and in terms of the water supply to Baku. “Consequently, the various participants need to begin to consider the possibility of a territorial swap including the following concessions: sending part of the NKAO to Armenia, with the area controlling the headwaters of the river flowing to Baku and areas of Azerbaijani population remaining in Azerbaijani hands; and transferring the Armenian-controlled landbridge between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan to Azerbaijani control.
In Washington this week, the Georgian president talks Trump, the Atlantic alliance, and Saakashvili.
“We are developing our country in [a] European and Euro-Atlantic direction,” Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels on March 10. But he cautioned against “possible provocations” from Russia.
“We are developing our country in [a] European and Euro-Atlantic direction,” Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels on March 10. But he cautioned against “possible provocations” from Russia.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has welcomed Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s proposal to seek ways of overcoming the lingering consequences of the August 2008 war in South Ossetia.
There are also Ukrainian language courses for adults and children in Minsk and Gomel organized by the Ukrainian ethnic community in Belarus.
Transnistria / Moldova Reports
The new OSCE envoy for the Transdniester conflict says that Russia and Ukraine have equally important roles in resolving the decades-old dispute between Moldova and its eastern breakaway region.
A former member of the Moldovan parliament has been sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of high treason and espionage for Russia.
Toronto will continue pressure on Russia, including through economic sanctions, according to Canada’s FM.
Russia / Iran / Syria / Iraq / OEF Reports
Moscow is ready to respond if lives of the Russian servicemen are endangered, including by strikes on Damascus, head of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov said.
Tensions between Russia and the West keep rising.
The Russian military has threatened action against the U.S. is it strikes Syria’s capital city of Damascus, according to multiple news reports. The threat, by Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov, was widely reported by Russia media sites such as state news agency RIA and Tass. It said Gerasimov said Russia had “reliable information” about militants preparing to falsify a government chemical attack against civilians. Gerasimov said Russia would respond to a U.S. strike on Syria if the lives of Russian servicemen were threatened, targeting any missiles and launchers involved.
Nikki Haley: US ‘Prepared to Act’ if Syria Continues to Violate Cease Fire
The United States has declared a United Nations effort to implement a ceasefire in Syria a failure and blamed Russia for stalling it, as the Syrian army continued to pound the devastated rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta.
Approached by CNBC for a response to the allegations, the U.S. Department of Defense was unequivocal in its criticism of Russia.
The United States is warning that it is ready to act in Syria to end chemical attacks and “inhuman suffering” if Russia, Iran, and Syria continue to allegedly ignore a 30-day cease-fire approved by…
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called out the Syrian government and its key ally, Russia, over the issue of chemical-weapons use, saying it would be “very unwise” for the regime to deploy such weapons.
Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov discussed the situation surrounding Eastern Ghouta with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff …
Two A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots received Distinguished Flying Crosses for their heroic actions in support of U.S. Army forces near al-Shaddadi, Syria, on May 2.
Russia’s defense minister has spoken publicly about the Su-57’s presence in Syria, but defense observers suspect there’s more to the story than what Russia has revealed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that Syrian rebels under siege in the enclave of eastern Ghouta will be given no relief, saying a 30-day cease-fire approved by the United Nations …
Air strikes killed dozens of civilians in eastern Ghouta on March 16 and forced thousands more to flee, as Syrian troops continued their offensive on the last rebel stronghold near Damascus.
Small groups of Islamist militants have begun to evacuate the besieged Syrian rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta after negotiations with the United Nations.
Up to 50,000 people are said to have fled parallel advances by Turkish and Syrian government forces.
Syria’s regime pressed its relentless offensive on Eastern Ghouta Monday as diplomats at the United Nations pushed for new efforts to end the “bloodbath” in the rebel enclave.
With only days left for its Syrian wing YPG to go down in defeat by Turkish forces and the FSA in Afrin, the PKK called on supporters of the group for brutal attacks across Europe, including Turkish embassies, banks, defense companies, courts and police stations among others
The Syrian army intensified its onslaught in eastern Ghouta on Saturday with advances that a war monitor and state media said had splintered the enclave, though a rebel official denied this.
A top Syrian Kurdish official accused Turkey on Tuesday of settling Turkmen and Arab families in villages seized in the Turkish army’s campaign in the Kurdish Afrin region.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned Syria that it would be “very unwise” for government forces to use weaponized gas, and slammed Russian support for Damascus.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed with President of the United States Donald Trump and US lawmakers the issue of Iran’s military presence in Syria, which together with Russia supports the regime of President Bashar Assad and intends to create its outpost on the territory of the country. March 11, Kuwaiti edition of Al-Jarida wrote that the United States and Israel are preparing for some air strikes on the facilities of the Iranian military in Syria. Kuwaiti journalists are confident that the Israel Defense Intelligence Directorate (AMAN) provided the American side with a map of Iranian military facilities in a neighboring country. One of the goals of the air strikes might be the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, sponsored by Iran. The operation is designed to squeeze Iran out of Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. It is unlikely that the authorities of the United States or Israel would publicly confirm the information reported by the publication of Al-Jarid. It is difficult to judge its reliability. However, the prospect of conducting an American-Israeli air force operation against the Iranian military in Syria lends itself to a logical explanation.
Influential Saudi Arabians were subject to coercion and severe physical abuse in a sweeping crackdown in their country.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince says that if Iran creates a nuclear weapon, his country will follow suit.
India News: There was no formal reaction from the Indian side but officials here said that they will wait to hear directly from Iran over the issue. The move may
A video of unveiled women singing a feminist song on Tehran’s subway to mark International Women’s Day could lend weight to recent hijab protests.
Nearly three years on from the Islamic State’s high water mark in the summer of 2015, there are several lessons that the United States and its allies can discern from the terrorist group’s meteoric rise to control large parts of Iraq and Syria to the loss of its physical caliphate late last year. The steady decline
The safe corridors are set to ease civilians’ exit from the southern parts of the Afrin city center
American forces in Niger were the targets of yet another terrorist ambush, a December attack disclosed by U.S. Africa Command on Wednesday — the latest revelation coming amid the fallout from a deadly October ambush and as lawmakers increasingly question the U.S. mission in the African country.
DPRK / PRC / WESTPAC Reports
Chaos erupted in west-central India when a leopard entered a Palher Nagar compound and attacked some residents. Watch as people arm themselves with sticks to try and scare off the big cat.
New CBS News poll finds that most Americans are still uneasy about a possible conflict with North Korea, but Republicans are feeling less uneasy
Team West must never forget that the Kim family regime is the North Korean threat.
The U.S. and South Korea need the most from a negotiation. Guess who that favors.
President Donald Trump will need to adopt an unfamiliar set of traits — patience, persistence, clear goals and conditions — and be prepared to walk away when he meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, people who have negotiated with Kim’s regime say.
Direct talks between America’s and North Korea’s heads of state have never been tried, and nothing else has worked.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will only happen once the country shows a commitment to denuclearization.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will go on, assuming the rogue nation adheres to promises it has made.
Kim Jong Un is offering a deal at a price that could be way too high—and that the president could easily accept.
North Korea’s foreign minister was flying to Sweden on Thursday, the Swedish government said, in the first significant diplomatic move by Pyongyang since US President Donald Trump said he’d be willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a week ago.
The U.S. and South Korea need the most from a negotiation. Guess who that favors.
Administration officials are scrambling to turn President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un into a reality, preparing for an unprecedented, high stakes summit with little time, an understaffed State Department and a mercurial President who may not stick to his script when the time comes.
A Vietnamese bar owner was asked to act in a video prank show by a man wanted for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s half-brother, but declined the offer, a Malaysian court heard on Wednesday.
Doan Thi HuongSHAH ALAM: The High Court was told today that Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong was introduced by a friend to a man looking for a woman to act …
A reliance on the strongman model of leadership poses dangers not only to the Chinese president – but to China itself
China’s legislature formally scrapped term limits on Xi Jinping’s presidency, clearing his path toward indefinite one-man rule.
China has now moved closer to a one-man dictatorship than anything it has experienced since the days of Mao Zedong. It was a rare example of a one-man coup.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson set out this week for his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa, where he is holding meetings with influential leaders across the continent.
If you’re reading this while commuting to the office this dank Monday, be grateful you’re not working for a “nine-nine-six” company. “Nine-nine-six”, I learnt at the Beijing smartphone maker Xiaomi, signifies a business with minimum staff hours of 9am to 9pm, six days a week. That palpable determin
China has long supplemented legitimate transfers and domestic innovation with industrial espionage.
China’s centralized, authoritarian government helps it streamline innovation without concern for civil liberties like privacy. So what does the U.S. need to do to compete?
The near-unanimous approval of a constitutional amendment to abolish term limits for president Xi Jinping, and a journalist rolling her eyeballs over an obsequious question, are the two most memorable incidents that happened at this year’s Two Sessions meetings, China’s biggest annual political gathering. Both events highlight the extent to which a meticulous control of information…
Supposedly but not entirely a clone of the US Black Hawk, the Z-20 is expected to be used on multiple missions by China’s army, air force and navy.
In 1839, England went to war with China because it was upset that Chinese officials had shut down its drug trafficking racket and confiscated its dope.
Congratulations, senior Defense Department official or general! After years of waiting, your staff has created a plan, OSD-Policy and Joint Staff have concurred, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has finally agreed to your visit to China. Or, perhaps somewhat less felicitously, you will be hosting a
Differences between Japan and South Korea on how to handle North Korea emerged on Tuesday with South Korea upbeat on prospects but a more cautious Japan demanding that North Korea account for Japanese people it says North Korea abducted decades ago.
If history is a guide, the answer is yes.
The Foreign Minister told Newshub Nation he’s keen for a trade deal no matter what Russia might have done.
Foreign Policy Reports
By now even the most tireless promoters of the idea that Russian “bots” pose some sort of existential threat to Western democracy are no longer so sure.
Putin’s victory on Sunday is a certainty, but what other victories might he win in Europe?
It’s easy to believe we are living in an age of emperors, strongmen, and presidents for life. With Vladimir Putin’s inevitable “reelection” this weekend, Xi Jinping’s successful abolition of term limits in China, and the solidification of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule in Turkey, the trend seems clear. In a piece featured below, the always insightful Ivan Krastev argues that “the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries, democracies and non-democracies alike, are fashioning themselves as modern-day emperors. They are concentrating power in their own hands with no plans to leave office in their lifetime.” So are we entering an “emperor’s moment” as Krastev argues. Maybe. But maybe this is a bit premature. Xi’s abandonment of term limits in China, for example, has undermined — and could effectively eradicate — the most serious model challenging liberal democracy. China is an authoritarian state to be sure, but it was one with functioning institutions and elite turnover; it was one where leaders were limited to two five-year terms. This served as a check on clan rule and gave the system a degree of dynamism. Now Xi, like Erdogan, risks turning himself into just another strongman — just like Putin. The difference is crucial, because Putin’s personalized rule, and the clan politics that have accompanied it, has sapped the energy and dynamism out of Russia’s economy and society. The age of emperors may turn out to be just a moment.
In Europe and elsewhere, the U.S. is a baffling and diminished suitor.
Obviously, Russia is trying to counter a successful effort to expose and counter Russian disinformation. This means it is working and Russia is using pro-Russian Dutch MPs to shut down this EU EEAS website. The EU is making strong public moves to resist Russia and counter Russian disinformation! The Russians are using everything they can…
Council of Europe may be forced to cut jobs without contributions from Moscow
The European Union on 12 March officially prolonged its asset freezes and visa bans against 150 Russian officials and Russia-backed Ukrainian separatists.
Germany resumed counterintelligence activities in connection with the increased activity of Russian special services – Germany resumes counterintelligence activity because of Russian special services – 112.international
“One of the main reasons for the resumption of counterintelligence activities which Germany ceased after the end of the Cold War was the growing activity of Russian special services, ” the newspaper reported. Germany resumed counterintelligence activities in connection with the increased activity of Russian special services. This is reported by Deutche Welle with reference to Der Spiegel. “One of the main reasons for the resumption of counterintelligence activities, which Germany ceased after the end of the Cold War, was” the growing activity of Russian special services, “the newspaper reported. The Federal Intelligence Service of Germany has set up a department for surveillance of foreign intelligence services, which at the moment has a small number of employees. In the future, staff is planning to be expanded, and the number of employees will exceed 50. One of the main reasons for the creation of the new department was the “growing activity of Russian special services,” in particular the case of poisoning of Sergei Skripal. Another reason for the appearance of counterintelligence was the intensive activity of Russian and Chinese special services on the territory of Germany, which the security organs of Germany have been monitoring for a long time. In addition to Russia and China, counterintelligence, according to the publication, also plans to concentrate on Iran and North Korea. The tasks of the new department include not only the suppression and deterrence of spy activities of other countries, but also the collection of information about its purposes and methods. As it was reported earlier, leaders of Great Britain, France, Germany and USA claimed that poisoning of the former GRU officer Skripal and his daughter endanger their safety. The leaders stressed that they share Britain’s opinion on Russia’s involvement in this incident, and they called Moscow for providing the information about Novichok agent (a series of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union and Russiabetween 1971–1993, -ed.) to the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). UN Security Council had an emergency session on March 14, when Great Britain confirmed that Russia used Novichok agent to poison Skripal and his daughter. Britain also stated that Russia was highly likely to be involved in this incident, as the state did not give any explanation concerning this case to the British side within the terms set by London. Besides, Russia was accused of illegal chemical weapon use, which is a violation of the UN Charter. Russia denied all the accusations and demanded the British side to provide evidence and threatened to respond to London’s ultimatum.
Germany’s parliament has confirmed Angela Merkel as the country’s next leader. The conservative Merkel will govern in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats. But the vote margin was very tight – a mere 9 votes.
The Latest on the formation of a new coalition government in Germany (all times local):
Nord Stream 2 is said to only increase Europe’s energy dependence on Russia.
Before discussing the issue of easing the sanctions imposed on Russia, it is necessary to make at least a couple of “important steps" in the …
Construction of the Nord Stream II pipeline could pose danger for Europe, especially for the Baltic States, – Mateusz Morawiecki
The heads of parliament of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania have signed an open letter to the parliaments of European states concerning the …
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said he is convinced that Europe needs to urgently reconsider its position regarding the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.
Thank you to Matthijs R. Koot for a heads up on this action! As we can see, the countries of “the West” are all doing the similar things and standing up to Russia. Russia is going to growl, seeking to portray a bear. We are seeing a unified approach to countering this problem, resisting Russian interference.…
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been pulling his country closer to Russia, the journalists’ investigation revealed. Two businessmen from Viktor Orban’s inner circle, Lajos Simicska and Zsolt Nyerges, traveled to Moscow to meet with a top FSB official just weeks before the April 2010 parliamentary elections where Orban’s Fidesz party won comfortably. Orban’s allies went to meet an FSB official because the Russian secret service is often involved in state-related businesses, according to Direkt36. One of the sources familiar with the meeting said the FSB official told Simicska and Nyerges that, if they need help in business, they “can rely on Russia”. Orban had been a staunch critic of Russia for most of his career, so exactly what led him to seek ties with Putin has been the subject of widespread speculation in recent years. According to multiple sources interviewed by Direkt36, Orban has been telling his own people that he’s building a closer relationship with Russia to strengthen Hungary’s standing internationally. He thinks that Hungary’s economy can profit from this connection, and he believes it also gives the country a better bargaining position vis-a-vis Western powers. Orbán, according to those who know him, enjoys maneuvering among powerful leaders. He finds Hungarian politics boring and is convinced of his own extraordinary political abilities (of which he even brags about in private). One of the sources claimed that Orban found what happened in Russia under Putin’s rule appealing. He was impressed by Putin’s social model, in which the business elite is dependent on the Russian leader, while only a few independent players remain. Given that Hungary’s rapprochement with Russia is an ongoing process, it is difficult to predict where Orban’s steps will take the country, according to the publication. Some believe Orban is using his Russian contacts to command greater influence in the West. “Viktor realized that this was a good bargaining position against the EU,” a person close to Orbán said. According to another source, the prime minister appreciates Hungary’s increasing importance and that “it is impossible to make decisions on European issues without him.” The Hungarian government argues that the only aim of its rapprochement with Russia is to achieve economic advantages for Hungary. “When we talk to Hungarian government officials, they always say this is just about business,” a diplomat of an Eastern European country said. If the Hungarians are serious, he continued, then they totally misunderstand the situation, because the Russians operate according to the logic of empire. The diplomat added, “This is never only about business for the Russians. There is always politics behind.”
Peter Szijjártó, Hungarian Foreign Minister, says that the OSCE observation mission will open in Transcarpathia. This was reported by the press service of the ruling Fides Party, to which Szijjártó himself belongs. He said that he repeatedly appealed to the OSCE with the request to send observers in addition to Donbas, also to the western part of Transcarpathia and ensure the safety of the Hungarian community. “It is unacceptable that in Ukraine, Hungarians are constantly intimidated and restricted in their rights,” Szijjártó said. On Friday, March 9, the OSCE Secretary General sent a message confirming that a permanent mission presence of 12 people has been established in Uzhgorod, Siyarto said. He also stressed that the OSCE Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights responded positively to his request for a mission in Transcarpathia. This statement has raised doubts, since there is no such information on the official website of the Hungarian government or on the OSCE website. In addition, to send the mission they need consensus in the OSCE, and it is impossible, because Ukraine opposed. And even if the mission in Transcarpathia operated within the framework of the already functioning SMM in Donbas – its mandate covers the entire country – it is questionable why the message came from the Hungarian party, and not from the official representatives of the OSCE SMM in Ukraine.
Kyiv will not agree to give autonomy to Hungarians in Ukraine. Hanna Hopko, the Chairman of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada’s Committee on Foreign …
Members of the Merkel government agree that Muslims belong in Germany but disagree on whether the religion itself does.
Brussels needs to admit that Warsaw’s democratic charade is over.
The Heads of State of the three Baltic countries oppose EU sanctions against Poland. The bone of contention is judicial reform initiated by the …
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that the excess of criticism from the EU on Poland's justice reforms could lead to negative …
Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland admitted that the law on Institute of National Remembrance was adopted in bad time but nobody can influence the Polish legislation as Polske Radio reported. ‘It is not right that the amendment to the law on Institute of National Remembrance was made on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day and election campaign in Israel’, Duda said.
Thousands of people gathered in Slovakia’s capital city Bratislava Friday night to protest against the government and pay tribute to murdered Slovakian journalist Jan Kuciak.
A senior U.S. official has warned of what he called Moscow’s “increasingly destructive role” in the Balkans, saying that Russia is undermining democracy in the region.
A surge of cyberattacks has officials in the aspiring EU member on high alert with a presidential election campaign set to begin.
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov called Russian Patriarch Kirill of Moscow a “KGB agent” and “Russia’s cigarette metropolitan”, …
The four-years contract signed by Bulgaria is estimated of 51,45 million dollars
Constantin Reliu returned to Romania from Turkey to find he had been dead for 15 years — officially, at least. And he still is, now that a court has denied his bid to overturn his death certificate.
The Russian motorcycle club Night Wolves, known for its staunch Russian nationalism and allegiance to President Vladimir Putin, has announced a “Russian Balkans” tour of Bosnia and Serbia in mid-Ma…
Deputy Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine Dmytro Zolotukhin turned to the Facebook’s European office to address the problem.
Twitter has suspended dozens of accounts masquerading as U.S. news sources that had more than 500,000 followers. By Selina Wang December 5, 2017, 6:00 AM EST Updated on December 5, 2017 The Kremlin-backed Russian Internet Research Agency operated dozens of Twitter accounts masquerading as local American news sources that collectively garnered more than half-a-million followers. More than 100…
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim Russia fancies itself a great global power. Yet the country’s GDP in 2017 was smaller than that of Italy, Canada, even South Korea. To say nothing of how that GDP is generated: Russia is essentially a large gas station that also sells weapons now and again. Where the Soviet Union was once…
Senators continued to pressure DoD leaders regarding Russian information warfare.
Dr. Briant, in my opinion, is one of the foremost experts on propaganda in the world. She is the author “Propaganda and Counter-terrorism: Strategies for Global Change”, which is well worth a detailed read. This article, at only 40 pages, both gives a synopsis of key points in her book and amends and updates much of…
Video at http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-43389032/how-russia-uses-propaganda-to-discredit-opponents A BBC Panorama investigation has revealed how the Russian state uses surveillance and propaganda to discredit critics of President Putin. Opposition activists have long accused the Kremlin of using the security services and state-controlled TV to attack them. When BBC Panorama went to Russia to investigate their claims, the same tactics were used…
Opinion: When ISIS uses Twitter to recruit or a landlord uses Airbnb to discriminate, that’s not exploiting the platforms’ glitches—that’s using their features.
Fake foreign experts from “all industries” are frequent guests on the Russian TV shows. Such Kremlin-aligned speakers often become the “original sources” of disinformation, the foreigners repeat the Russian propaganda narratives to convince the domestic audience of the plausibility of disinformation and to promote the desirable opinions among the foreign audience. However, such experts on Russian TV are often just random foreign persons who are far from the claimed areas of expertise. Here is the latest example of an American “political analyst” who lives off selling soaps and CDs with himself singing his own songs.
According to Spiegel, hackers who attacked the servers of the German Government managed to steal the documents about of the British withdrawal …
Great report. But BBG, are these numbers an increase or decrease from previous reports or levels? May we please have some context? These are flat, useless numbers. If we see a 2% increase, we know we’ve made a dramatic leap and we can probably report what you’ve done is effective. BBG, if you give Congress these numbers, that’s nice.…
The man assures that he can provide evidence that confirms the connection between the Russians and a mysterious @spainbuca Twitter account, as well as banking data.
The “Spanish air-traffic controller" massively quoted by the Russian media regarding the "Ukrainian fingerprint" in the crash of the MH17 flight …
By: Stephen Losey for the Air Force Times Air Force officers in the newly formed 14Finformation operations career field will get their own technical training school in late fiscal 2019. In a March 5 release, the Air Force said the new school will be set up at Hurlburt Field in Florida. It will be a 14- to 15-week-long…
At first, I didn’t want to touch this as the Daily Caller is biased way to the right. I read several dozen tweets about this from Democrats and then saw the “Never Trump” Republicans jumping on board. All because somebody at the Daily Caller decided to publish a Russian Oligarch’s alternate reality piece aka propaganda. The resulting Tweets…
With eye on hearts and minds, Israeli army sets up a new ‘soft power’ psychological warfare unit
The 2016 election wasn’t the first time that a disinformation campaign was used against America.
By Josephine Lukito and Chris Wells MARCH 8, 20181419 WORDS THE NEW YORK TIMES’S BARI WEISS was in the news again yesterday, this time for citing a hoax Twitter account as an example of liberal intolerance. Just how often do such Twitter accounts make it into mainstream media, as @OfficialAntifa did in Weiss’s column? While it is…
8 March 2018 | Disinformation Review Russophobia spewed out by Washington, the Pentagon, NATO and the European Union has created the worst crisis in relations with Russia since the Cold War.” “The main aim of this war [between the US and Russia or the US and China] is to destroy Russia, because then its rich natural sources can be taken…
U.S. military leaders are considering new guidelines for the use of helmet cameras on the battlefield after Islamic State-linked fighters in Niger exploited footage taken by a fallen American soldier to make a propaganda video that highlighted the killing of four U.S. forces.
Sweden plans to tap its private cybersecurity industry to help prepare for a potential attack from Russia.
A last-minute complaint from Yevgeny Nikulin, the Russian cybercrime suspect at the center of a tug-of-war between Moscow and Washington, has delayed a final decision on his extradition to the United States or Russia.
German public prosecutors have opened an investigation into a suspected cyberattack on a Berlin-based political foundation carried out by a Russian hacking group, according to a report.
A total of six files have been stolen.
Czech authorities arrested Yevgeniy Nikulin in Prague in cooperation with the FBI in October 2016. He is accused by U.S. prosecutors of hacking computers at Silicon Valley firms including LinkedIn and Dropbox in 2012 and the U.S. wanted him extradited to face a trial there.
A Prague court on March 16 rejected Russian cybercrime suspect Yevgeny Nikulin’s appeal against the Czech Interior Ministry’s refusal to grant him political asylum.
Xuedong Huang, technical fellow in charge of Microsoft’s speech, natural language and machine translation efforts. (Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures) A team of Microsoft researchers said Wednesday that they believe they have created the first machine translation system that can translate sentences of news articles from Chinese to English with the same quality and…
AMD says its Secure Processor is impenetrable. Instead, it can harbor malware.
A bill to study retro approaches to preventing and mitigating the effects of cyberattacks is advancing in the Senate.
US Domestic Policy Reports
Posted to Energy March 16, 2018 by Erin Mundahl For months, House Committees and a Special Counsel have been investigating Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Even as these investigations continue to make headlines, interference in American energy markets, which was likely even more successful, has received relatively little attention. According to new findings from the House Committee…
Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors—hereafter referred to as “threat actors”—targeted government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.
The United States for the first time is blaming the Russian government for an ongoing campaign of cyberattacks that it says is targeting the U.S. power grid, water systems, and other critical infra…
Over the last year, Russian hackers have gone from infiltrating business networks of energy, water and nuclear plants to worming their way into control rooms.
The US government has accused Russia of remotely targeting the US power grid, as part of its newly unveiled sanctions on the country.
If President Vladimir Putin’s aim was to become the most incendiary, corrosive influence on American politics, he succeeded spectacularly.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions late on March 16 fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was criticized by President Donald Trump for showing “bias” in the investigation of ties between hi…
In an interview with RFE/RL, Michael Carpenter, a former top Defense Department official overseeing Russia and Eurasia and a former foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, says newly an…
The Latest on U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia and accusations that Moscow conducted an operation to hack and spy on the U.S. energy grid and other critical infrastructure (all times local):
The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on 19 Russian individuals and five Russian entities in connection with what U.S. officials said was Russian meddling in U.S. elections and malic…
Mnuchin added that Treasury is planning to impose additional sanctions.
President Petro Poroshenko has welcomed the introduction of new US sanctions against Russia. "Every unlawful and illegitimate act of the …
The actions came at the same time the Trump administration joined a collective statement with Britain, France and Germany denouncing Russia for its apparent role in a nerve-gas attack.
The Treasury Department sanctioned Russian intelligence agencies and officials — again. But lawmakers and experts wonder when the real response will come.
The timing of Rex Tillerson’s firing has come under scrutiny among critics who say Trump is protective of Russia. “Trump is ours!” a Russian state journalist declared after Donald …
Trump and Kim have committed to meeting at a time and place to be determined before the end of May to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The former Exxon chief knew how to negotiate with Putin, but chose not to deploy that skill as secretary of state.
The secretary of state is out after 14 months on the job.
Rex Tillerson leaves a State Department with morale reportedly low and major international challenges outstanding.
Things move fast in President Trump’s Washington. You can hardly keep up with the news. Unless, that is, you are waiting for Trump to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government, writes Frida Ghitis
Time to stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.K.
Vladimir Putin in expected to be re-elected this Sunday, but that doesn’t mean Russians are happy. Here’s a look at life in Russia and how it stacks up against the US.
Russian meddling occurred, but it wasn’t really effective
Donald Trump’s friends on Capitol Hill have delivered.
Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee say the panel has finished investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, and concluded there was no collusion betw…
Democrats on Monday begged President Trump to press the extradition of 13 Russians indicted on a charge of interfering in the 2016 election after Putin blamed “Jews.”
The court order is the first known time the special counsel has demanded that records directly related to the president’s businesses be turned over.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman asked a judge on March 14 to dismiss criminal charges he faces related to his foreign lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine’s former pro-Russia p…
“Defendant faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison,” a federal judge said about Manafort on Tuesday
A U.S. company has agreed to pay $2 million to settle charges that it bribed a Russian executive to win contracts to ship uranium to the United States, U.S. authorities said on March 13.
The draft bill is the first legislative attempt to push back against the Chinese state-run programs.
Trump Signs Order Prohibiting Broadcom Takeover of Qualcomm
Australia has secured an exemption from metals tariffs announced last week by U.S. President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the media.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he has spoken with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and that they are working on an agreement so Australia will not be subject to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.
“The Cold War-era doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction will continue to deter nuclear war for at least another decade despite Russia’s claims of new and provocative doomsday weapons, said General John Hyten, the head of the U.S. Strategic Command” (Washington Examiner: March 7, 2018). In fact, the U.S. no longer has the ability to deliver 400 equivalent megatons (EMTs) to destroy 25% of Russia’s population and 75% of industry after a Russian first-strike, which is the classical definition of MAD requirements for the U.S. In contrast, Russia–after a U.S. first-strike–has the capability to destroy more than 25% of U.S. population and 75% of industry by delivering 100 EMTs against the U.S., whose population and industry is much more urbanized and concentrated than in Russia. U.S. population and industry is also much less well protected. The white paper below was written in 2010 during the Obama Administration, based on analysis performed in 2009 for the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission to warn that U.S. nuclear deterrence and warfighting capabilities were already, in 2009, dangerously deficient. After 8 years of the Obama Administration’s withering of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, the 2010 analysis below not only remains relevant-the U.S. strategic posture is even worse, and consequently the Free World even more vulnerable.
One day after Air Force leaders severely restricted media contacts, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan encouraged Pentagon officials to engage …
The president’s words could reanimate a legislative proposal that the defense secretary and others thought they had killed.
The president has proposed the creation of a new military branch that his Defense Department actually opposes.
“Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea,” said the president.
A day after President Donald Trump reversed course to propose the creation of a separate military ‘space force,’ top U.S. Air Force leaders who opposed the idea downplayed the idea of a disconnect.
Congress has already rejected them both.
That\’s not just a good idea; it\’s the law. A report to Congress is due on Monday.
With the new National Defense Strategy, the Department of Defense is looking for systems that can contribute to lethality and readiness.
Some congressional lawmakers want the Air Force to adopt a hybrid approach to battle management that would see elements of the JSTARS recap move forward.
Most of the world\’s reactors use low-enriched uranium. There are at least three good reasons the U.S. fleet should as well.
The world’s media abounds with reports of the growing military capabilities of those who would challenge the U.S. Where is the U.S. Navy in all this?
New guidance from the Air Force hits pause on public affairs while the entire enterprise is retrained — and could have a long-term impact on how the service shares information.