Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Russia / Strategy Ad Hoc Media Update (23)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

Paul Goble’s coverage of Margarita Simonyan is a harsh wakeup call.  Yes, she is harcore. Yes, her view is extremist and most likely not representative of most Russians. What is scary is that her words probably represents the attitude of many in leadership positions. If not, follow or die is probably a good mantra.

Yes, we are in Information Cold War 2.0.  The question is, are we armed properly? 

</end editorial>



NATO / EU / Russia Reports

Russian Threat Becoming ‘More Unpredictable and More Aggressive,’ Military Leader Warns

“We are always ready to respond when an ally is attacked militarily. We want credible deterrence,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

U.S. Says Russia Increasing Deployment Of ‘Banned’ Cruise Missile

The commander of U.S. nuclear forces says that Russia has increased its deployment of cruise missiles that Washington asserts are in violation of a key Cold War arms-control treaty, a signal that M…

NATO eyes changes after attack blamed on Russia, report says – Daily Sabah

NATO must improve its defensive capabilities and willingness to act in the wake of increasingly aggressive and unpredictable actions by Russia, the head of…

Nato must improve defences against a ‘more aggressive’ Russia, says chief | World news | The Guardian

Secretary general Jens Stoltenberg says alliance must revamp its approach given Russia’s new military capabilities

Nato warns of Kremlin’s nuclear threat | World | The Times

The head of Nato has warned that Russia is increasingly prepared to use nuclear weapons as he urged the alliance to improve its defensive capabilities and willingness to act in the face of Moscow’s aggressive and unpredictable actions.Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia was gradually giving more weigh

NATO Set To Begin Move To New Brussels Headquarters

NATO will begin moving into its new headquarters in Brussels after several delays caused by technical problems, German news agency dpa reports.

NATO – News: NATO begins the final phase of its move to a new home , 19-Mar.-2018

NATO started today (19 March 2018) the last part of its move to its new headquarters in Brussels. Over the next 12 weeks, around 4000 people – NATO civilian and military staff, as well as 29 national delegations – will transfer to their new offices.

Putin says he ‘doesn’t want arms race’ with the West | Newshub

The comment comes after taking out his biggest ever election victory.

How Will America Respond To Cold War II? | HuffPost

Russia’s actions pose an existential threat. It’s time we act like it.

Russia Names Putin’s New ‘Super Weapons’ After a Quirky Public Vote

Russia has unveiled the names for a new generation of nuclear-powered missiles touted by President Vladimir Putin as invincible after more than seven million people took part in a quirky public vote organized by the Russian military. The names chosen include “Peresvet,” after a medieval warrior monk, for a laser and “Burevestnik,” after a seabird, for a cruise missile. The arms systems, which Putin revealed in a bellicose state-of-the-nation speech this month, include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, an underwater nuclear-powered drone, and a laser weapon.

Russia’s new missile complex programme suspended – Defence Blog

According to a report by news agency TASS, Russia’s Avangard strategic silo-based hypersonic missile complex has been included in the state armament plan through 2027 instead of Rubezh intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as a weapon more essential to ensure the country’s defense capability. “It was initially planned to include both the Avangard and the Rubezh in the state armament plan but it became clear later that funds would not suffice to finance both systems at a time. Therefore, the Avangard was included in the program’s final version as more essential to ensure the country’s defense capability,” a source in the domestic defense industry told TASS. The RS-26 Rubezh is the project of a road-mobile missile complex armed with a small-sized intercontinental solid-propellant ballistic missile with greater precision. On December 14, 2012, the commander-in-chief of the Strategic Missile Force, Colonel-General Sergei Karakayev, told the media that in the future the new missile will replace the Topol-M and Yars ICBMs. Many Russian experts refute this, however. More: Putin unveils secret Russian intercontinental ballistic missile In March 2015 it was acknowledged that RS-26 Rubezh is a shorter version of the RS-24 Yars ICBM with one less stage, much similar to the SS-20 Saber being a shorter version of the SS-16 Sinner. In a media statement, the adviser to the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel-General Victor Esin, of July 21, 2015, the missile system with the RS-26 ICBM, known as Rubezh, also was named Yars-M.

UAWire – Lavrov: US wants to neutralize Russia’s nuclear potential

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated in an interview with Vietnamese and Japanese media that the United States aims to devalue Russia’s strategic nuclear potential, and that this is supported by the US’ deployment of global missile defense system, RIA Novosti reports. “Everything that has been done by our US colleagues made us believe that the global system of missile defense was created not to confront threats emanating from Iran and North Korea, but to encircle Russia from all sides with these missile defense systems, which, according to our servicemen’s estimations, is really aimed to devalue our strategic nuclear potential,” stressed Lavrov. In early May 2017, the US military completed the installation of the THAAD missile defense system. Its deployment to South Korea drew criticism from China, Russia, and North Korea.

UAWire – Russia claims its submarines reached the American shores unnoticed during recent exercises

The commander of the nuclear submarine division, Captain Sergeant Sergei Starshinov, spoke to journalists about the operation, during which the Russian nuclear submarines of Project 971 Shchuka-B reached the US bases, reports Zvezda, the official newspaper of the Russian Ministry of Defense. According to Starshinov, the submarines “established themselves in these areas of the ocean” and, having accomplished the tasks, returned home unnoticed. According to Zvezda, the Russian submarines reached the bases located off the coast of the United States. According to Rossiyskaya gazeta news outlet, this operation was conducted in 2013. The submarines came to the area of the Gulf of Mexico and were at the distance of a missile strike from the base of American submarines. Submarines Shchuka e-B, built in 1983-2001, became the main type of multi-purpose nuclear submarines of the Russian fleet. They replaced the submarines of the project 671RTMK Shchuka. The submarines of the Shchuka-B project are armed with a torpedo-missile system. Torpedo systems of 533-millimeter caliber can use deep-water torpedoes UGST, homing electric-powered torpedoes USET-80, cruise missiles S-10 Granat with a nuclear warhead and other types of torpedoes.

Akula-class submarine – Wikipedia

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russian Naval Construction ‘Weak Link’ in Putin’s Military Buildup, Vasin Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 16 – At the end of February, Nezavisimaya gazeta carried a brief report on serious shortcomings in Russian naval construction and modernization (ng.ru/armies/2018-02-27/8_7180_fleet.html); but because it contained no specific numbers, most people were inclined to dismiss its findings, according to Aleksandr Vasin. But the independent Moscow military analyst says in an article published today that “the reality is even worse than was described” in that article. Indeed, he says, the Russian navy will not get the full complement of any of the categories of ships the Kremlin has promised or the modernization of existing ships it needs (nvo.ng.ru/realty/2018-03-16/3_988_vmf.html). The Russian military has never published precise figures on the number of ships by category it has or the number that it plans to have in the future. Such information, Vasin says, isn’t needed, “as people say.” But political figures, including the prime minister and the president have given figures; and if one assembles them, it is not a pretty picture. Using these statements, Vasin has compiled a detailed chart which Novoye voyennoye obozreniye publishes with his article. It shows how many ships of various categories were planned, how many have been produced so far, and how many will be produced by the early 2020s. The striking fact is that in no case is Russian naval shipbuilding meeting what Putin and Medvedev promised; and in many cases, it is not producing anything close to the number promised and that the navy needs. That is especially shocking, Vasin says, because of how it compares with Putin’s March 1 talk about a new generation of other kinds of super weapons. The situation with regard to refitting and modernization is “just as bad,” he continues. Ships are in dry dock for far longer than they were scheduled to be, often because of a lack of money, or are not being released to the fleet because the equipment they were supposed to have installed wasn’t available – including defensive weaponry. The question naturally arises, the defense analyst says. Who is responsible for these shortcomings? And who is reporting on them accurately to the Russian commander in chief, Vladimir Putin.

As Russia Spooks Europe, Poland Is Reminded Who Its Friends Are – Bloomberg

Poland’s nationalist government spent the past two years isolating itself within the European Union over everything from rule of law to refugees, but it just got a timely reminder of who its friends are.

Fortress Sweden: Inside the plan to mobilize Swedish society against Russia

Sweden is preparing to turn its entire country against an invading force — and to hold out for three months until help arrives.

In the TV thriller ‘Occupied,’ Russia has Western democracy on the run – The Washington Post

Is this show fantasy, or prophecy?


Russia / Russophone Reports

The struggle for Russia is just beginning – Russia under Putin

THE ballot-stuffing, blatant and in full view of the cameras, only underlined Vladimir Putin’s impunity. The official result on March 18th gave him 77% of the vote, on a turnout of almost 70%. But the unofficial one would not have been very different.

Putin Won the Russian Election. But his Country Is Losing | Time

Vladimir Putin may have been re-elected president, but he’s far from the grand master of geopolitical chess portrayed in the Western media. Vladimir Putin may have been re-elected president of Russia on March 18, but he’s far from the grand master of geopolitical chess portrayed in the Western media. Whether bragging about Russia’s “invincible” new missile, playing coy over accusations that his hackers play games with foreign elections or that his spies murder opponents in faraway places, the Russian President seems intent on restaging the Cold War–but without the military reach or global ideological appeal that made the Soviet Union a formidable foe. What has Putin really won? Today’s Russia has an economy smaller than that of Canada. Its entire military budget is less than the extra money President Donald Trump wants Congress to spend on U.S. defense. It has no NATO allies, and it counts countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea, Syria and Serbia among its few reliable friends. China makes occasional deals with Russia but only at a Chinese price. While Putin wants the world to see him as a strong, decisive leader, he often fails to understand the full impact of his actions. Looking at the foreign policy fights he has picked, it’s clear that he is a shrewd short-term tactician and a lousy long-term strategist.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s ‘Negative Stabilization’ has Left Russians in Worse Shape than in 1990s, Loginov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 18 – Today’s economic crisis in Russia is not as severe as the one in the 1990s, but the prospects for the future Russians see are far worse than they were two decades ago, according to Dmitry Loginov, a specialist on social development at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service. Consequently, he says, “the most suitable term” to characterize the situation the majority of Russians find themselves in is “negative stabilization,” a state in which people don’t feel that things are falling apart but also don’t see any way that their lives will improve in the foreseeable future (lenta.ru/articles/2018/03/13/terpi/). At the end of 2014, Loginov says, sociologists noted the first upsurge of negative assessments of the economy by the population. “This was the beginning of the crisis.” Then a second upsurge happened in 2016 when people became convinced that the crisis was going to last for a long time. “In the 1990s,” the sociologist continues, “the crisis was much more serious but then were opening new horizons.” Now those seem to be ever more distant. It is harder to find a job if you lose one, and opening a business is much more difficult than it was two decades ago. “No one sees” any prospects and so they are holding on to what they have. Consequently, most Russians have shifted from being pro-active as they were then to defensive now in all spheres of consumption. About 60 percent of Russians now say they assume that their standard of living “will remain unchanged for the next two years.” Twenty percent say it will get worse, “but 14 percent expect improvements.” The latter figure includes not only optimists but the 10 percent of the population which has not suffered from the crisis. “Such people have sufficient resources” to ride it out, and they expect to be able to. But overwhelmingly, even including them, Russians aren’t optimistic about the future. Russians are being ever more careful about their purchases, after a brief uptick in buying televisions at the end of 2014, Loginov says. And while they are reluctant to say how much money they have saved, most acknowledge that if they lost their jobs, they have resources only for about three months before they would become destitute. According to Loginov, Russians are putting most of their savings in banks but only up to the limit of one million rubles (17,000 US dollars) for which deposits are insured by the state. Anything about that amount they are retaining at home or elsewhere. By way of conclusion, the scholar observes: “Russians place their hopes in the state” for some improvement, “but they rely only on themselves,” a major shift in values that could make Russia a very different place if and when the crisis finally ends.

Putin, a Little Man Still Trying to Prove His Bigness | The New Yorker

Robin Wright writes about Vladimir Putin’s election to a fourth term as President of Russia and its implications for American foreign policy.

John R. Schindler | Russia’s, Putin’s Ideology Rules Cold War 2.0, Like Soviet’s Communism | Observer

In Cold War 2.0, Putin’s Russia embraces an aggressive nationalism that is grounded in revanchism left over from the last Cold War and the Soviet collapse. Four years ago this week, I coined the term Cold War 2.0 to describe the deteriorating diplomatic and military situation between Russia and the West in the aftermath of the Kremlin’s dramatic seizure of Crimea. It was obvious to anyone who wished to see that a period of renewed conflict had arrived—because Moscow sought it. It wasn’t a repeat of the last Cold War, rather a reborn rivalry that promised to be even more unpredictable the second time. I concluded my assessment: The West will prevail in this Cold War too because Putin’s corruption-laden model for Russia is unsustainable in the long run. In terms of population and per capita GDP, Russia is more or less Mexico with nuclear weapons. We are not headed for a bipolar world again, but a multipolar one where Russia can be a dangerous spoiler. But NATO, with American leadership, needs to wake up. However, many people did not wish to wake up just yet, so my announcement of Cold War 2.0’s arrival was met with criticism that I was alarmist and overly worried about Russian President Vladimir Putin and the retinue of rough men around him, mainly Chekists like himself. I know something about Chekists—and Russians—so I understood that the Kremlin wasn’t going to stop its increasingly aggressive provocations unless it was forced to. The last four years have witnessed Moscow’s march, real and virtual, on one Western institution after another. Above all, Putin’s Special War against the West—an unpleasant amalgam of espionage, propaganda, subversion and cyberattacks—has wrought havoc at minimal cost to Moscow. The Russian effort to create mayhem in America’s 2016 election surely succeeded beyond the Kremlin’s wildest hopes, while Britain’s recent Skripal case, an audacious attack with a military-grade nerve agent, demonstrates that Moscow’s spies aren’t beholden to any gentlemanly rules from the last Cold War. Nevertheless, reality has intruded, slowly, and it’s now de rigeur to concede that a new Cold War has arrived. Mainstream pundits have joined the bandwagon, finally. In the New Statesman, Sir Lawrence Freedman, the eminent British strategist, concedes that Cold War 2.0 is here (without noting the term’s origin), and provides a walk-through of all the ways that the new conflict is dissimilar from the last one. Freedman’s points are accurate, indeed I’ve been making most of them for years. Yet one key omission is telling. As he explains:

Window on Eurasia — New Series: ‘What’s Good for Russians’ Must Be Moscow’s Policy ‘for Everyone,’ Zhirinovsky Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 15 – Many dismiss Vladimir Zhirinovsky as a clown, but that is a mistake: the longtime LDPR leader often expresses in blunt language what many in Moscow are thinking and thus often serves as a leading indicator of the direction in which the Russian Federation is moving. In an essay for the RBC news agency this week, Zhirinovsky says what many Russians think but are too polite or politically correct to say: “The correct nationality policy must be based on the simple principle: if in Russia it is good for the Russians, it is good for everyone” (rbc.ru/opinions/politics/14/03/2018/5aa8d3029a7947dab9ddd266?from=center_6). Like many Russians, Zhirinovsky says that Russians are “the people who have suffered the most in the 20th and the 21st centuries,” in the USSR, in the non-Russian countries that broke away from Moscow in 1991, and in the Russian Federation to this day. “It is simply impossible,” he says, for that situation to be allowed to continue. Russians must be given their due, Zhirinovsky continues. “Of course, “one isn’t talking about giving them special rights or privileges. From the point of view of the law, all citizens of Russia are equal. But the time has come to restore historical justice.” And there are several steps that need to be taken immediately. First and foremost, the Russian constitution must be amended to include a reference to ethnic Russians and to name them as “the state-forming nation.” The first lines of that document must no longer read “We, the multi-national people of the Russian Federation” but rather “We, ethnic Russians and other peoples of Russia.” Second, the media has to stop treating Russians negatively and begin to celebrate them. If you read only some extremely popular newspapers and sites, you may think that a Russian in Rusisa can be only an innate drunkard, a lazy-bones, or a slave.” That isn’t true, and people need to be told that. Third, Zhirinovsky says, the country must do away with Article 282 of the criminal code. It is the direct heir of Article 70 of the RSFSR criminal code and gives the authorities the power to charge anyone it likes. “However, among the people, this paragraph is known as ‘the Russian paragraph’ because among those condemned under its terms are practically only Russians.” Fourth, he continues, all schools must teach Russian and he implies only Russian. Tehre is plenty of space in private life for people to use their local languages. And the government must fight the destruction of Russian as a result of the influx of foreign words. Now, “residents of the provinces already understand a Muscovite only with difficulty.” Fifth, “Russia must again become a unitary state.” All non-Russian republics must be done away with, the right of secession must be banned, and the country must be divided into gubernias based on and named according to cities rather than ethnic groups. Russia can’t afford another 1991. Sixth, Russia should pursue restoring Russia’s borders to those of at least the former Soviet Union. “In the final analysis, we must establish three levels of states. The present territory of Russia must be a unitary state without internal national borders … The Russian federation should become a state formed of the former republics of the Soviet Union.” In this restored state, Zhirinovsky says, the center will be responsible for “only seven issues: foreign policy, defense, finances, transportation, communication, energy and ecology. Besides and in contrast to the Soviet Union, there will not be imposed any one ideology.” “And the third level of Russian statehood,” Zhirinovsky says, will be “a confederation” in which “will be included our neighbors – Turkey, Iran, Mongolia, and Afghanistan.” They will be allowed to keep their national currencies and languages, “but the union all the same must include ‘Russian’ in its definition.”

Russian Journalist Says Zhirinovsky Groped Him

A journalist with Current Time TV has claimed that Russian nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky touched him inappropriately in 2006. Renat Davletgildeyev made the allegation on his Facebook page and spoke about it with Timur Olevsky on Current Time TV, a Russian-language TV and digital network led by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in partnership with VOA. Zhirinovsky’s son, Duma deputy Igor Lebedev, called the accusations “nonsense.”

A new term for a new tsar | Arab News

Vladimir Putin won Russia’s presidential elections… again. A victory for the “Kremlin tsar” was not actually in doubt, and if the obvious reason is the lack of a well-organized opposition, there are other reasons that are no less significant. Without any prejudice against Russia’s political history and great heritage, and keeping in mind that it is capable of exterminating mankind and destroying our planet tens or even hundreds of times over, the country has never experienced or practiced democracy, at least as defined by and conceived in the West.  Putin embodies almost all the elements of Russia’s identity, and its nationalistic and religious pride. His psyche is infused with its imperial voracity, and the pains of its defeats and besiegement through the centuries. So after his coronation yet again, nobody should ever expect from him anything different from his systematic destruction of Syria under the pretext of confronting terrorists. Furthermore, amid America’s confusion and Europe’s distraction, it is worth recalling one of Putin’s quotes: “No one should have any illusions that it’s possible to achieve military superiority over Russia; we will never allow it.” So today we are witnessing the confirmation of a new kind of tsar, albeit through the ballot box.

Another Opinion: The sham of Putin’s ‘managed democracy’ – Opinion – Daily Commercial – Leesburg, FL

Vladimir Putin’s re-election Sunday to a fourth term as Russia’s president constitutes far less of a voter mandate than a 76 percent majority would suggest. It should not deter the West from pushing back harder against Putin’s aggressive foreign adventurism. Under Putin, Russia’s “managed democracy” preserves the illusion of legitimate elections and a popular mandate, even though the results were fixed. Putin’s United Russia Party set itself the

Basking In Big Official Win, Putin Urges Unity, Blasts ‘Irresponsible Populism’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has thanked voters for their “unprecedented support” and urged the country to put political differences aside in the name of progress, addressing the country moment…

‘Czar #Putin’ : EU Reporter

Vladmir Putin will serve a fourth term as Russian president. Officially his vote share in an election in which strong opposition had not been allowed was put at more than 76%. Responding to the result, European Green Party co-chairs Reinhard Bütikofer and Monica Frassoni said: “Let’s not kid ourselves about the seriousness of these so-called elections that were neither free, nor fair. Any real opposition to Putin was crushed in its infancy and what remained was not credible. “The end–result is another six years of autocratic leadership on Europe’s doorstep and the potential for the further degradation of relations between Russia and the West. “There are many reasons to fear that President Putin will continue a foreign policy that creates tensions and conflict. For this reason, the EU member states must show unity and strategic clarity vis-à-vis Russia.”

Putin and the Passions (Op-ed)

Tens of millions of Russians went to the polls on Sunday and cast their ballots for Putin, willingly and even enthusiastically

Putin Will Fight to Avoid Lame-Duck Status – The Russia File

BY MAXIM TRUDOLYUBOV A lot of soul-searching is due for everyone in Russia whose politics differs from the creed officially endorsed by the Kremlin. The closest second in last weekend’s presidential election took 12 percent of the vote, while the incumbent, Vladimir Putin, carried 77 percent. By the time Putin’s new term ends in 2024 he will have been in power for 25 years (Dmitry Medvedev’s 2008–2012 tenure was essentially a Putin regency). Almost 68 percent of the electorate turned out to cast a ballot. Fifty-six million voted for Putin, which was more than at any election for any presidential candidate—that is, more than for Boris Yeltsin or Dmitry Medvedev—television anchors and commentators triumphantly emphasized. The Putin of 2018 essentially ran against the Putin of 2012, 2004, and 2000. The 2018 version crushed all the previous incarnations. Still, there is room for improvement—that is, an authoritarian improvement. After all, 56 million votes is just half of Russia’s registered 109 million voters. “The result was typical or a bit lower than in most authoritarian regimes. Similar regimes would mobilize turnouts exceeding 80 percent. Russia’s system is still a work in progress and if the present tendencies persist the regime would not have any problems with the turnout come next election,” the political scientist Grigory Golosov told the newspaper Vedomosti.

How a series of deadly Russian apartment bombings in 1999 led to Putin’s rise to power | Business Insider

Window on Eurasia — New Series: RT’s Simonyan Presents What Pavlova Calls ‘a Manifesto of Modernized Stalinism’

Paul Goble Staunton, March 19 – US-based Russian historian Irina Pavlova says that a new statement about the results of the Russian election by Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the Russia Today television network, represents a clear example of what Pavlova called “a manifesto of modernized Stalinism.” Simonyan’s position, she continues, is that of “a convinced opponent of the present-day West” who wants to blame the West for what she and the Russian population firmly supports — Putin’s program of Russian fundamentalism – and thus strengthens that which she poses as a critic of (ivpavlova.blogspot.com/2018/03/blog-post_19.html). The historian points to the publication of Simonyan on the Ekho Moskvy portal under the title “You are guilty in this, my Western friends” as evidence for her conclusions. Below are key excerpts from the Russia Today editor’s article, which is available in full in Russian at echo.msk.ru/blog/simonyan/2168470-echo/). “In general,” Simonyan begins, “the West now should be horrified not by the 76 percent who backed Putin but by the fact that in the elections in Russia, conservative-patriotic, communist and nationalist ideas were supported by 95 percent of the population, leaving the liberal ideas with a pathetic five percent.” “And you, my Western friends, are guilty of this.” By your hostility and sanctions, you have pushed the Russian people into the arms of the Moscow regime. Had you behaved sensibly and reached compromises, this outcome would not have occurred; but now that it has, the West must assume all responsibility. As a result, Simonyan continues, “we no longer want to live as you do. for 50 years both secretly and in public we wanted to do so, but we don’t want to any more. We no longer respect you and all those you support among us” – the paltry five percent. “And you yourselves are guilty of this.” “Our people can forgive a lot, but we can’t forgive arrogance, the same as any other normal people.” The West lost its empires because of arrogance: “White man’s burden, my ass,” Simonyan says. And now you have done something worse: “you have united us around your enemy” precisely by declaring that he was your enemy. Earlier, [Putin]was simply our president and could have been changed. But now he is our leader [vozhd] and we will not allow him to be replaced. And you did all this with your own hands.” Patriotism and liberalism should not be mutually exclusive, the RT editor says. But that is what you have insisted upon. Give this “false dilemma: we have chosen patriotism.” And we Russians have done so even though “many of us are really liberals. I, for one.” And this is not something that is going to quickly fade. It is “now in place for a long time to come.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin Fears Declaring an Ideology would Split Russia, Khaldey Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 18 – Over the last 50 years, Russia has changed ideologies three times, Aleksandr Khaldey says; and there are significant supporters of each of them still around. As a result, Vladimir Putin has avoided declaring an ideology for the same reason the 1993 Constitution did – to maintain civic peace and avoid a civil war. Were he to promulgate a single ideology, the Moscow nationalist commentator says, he would immediately be confronted by opposition; and so instead, the Kremlin leader makes a nod to each part of the spectrum satisfying no one completely but alienating no one completely either (zavtra.ru/blogs/pochemu_v_rossii_izbegayut_sformulirovat_natcional_nuyu_ideologiyu). Many of Putin’s critics assume, Khaldey says, that the US was behind the ban on ideology in the 1993 Constitution, but that is “a conscious lie.” The prohibition was something in which Russian elites were vitally interested in, he continues, because it was the only way to prevent a civil war and unending national conflicts. “The main goal of the authorities at present,” the commentator says, “is the preservation of civic peace even at this cost,” which is not small because without an ideology Russians are less willing and able to oppose the ideological challenges coming from abroad and in some cases from within. But not declaring an ideology, as understandable as it is in Russia’s case, is problematic for three other reasons as well. First, it means that the current Russian elite is operating with a “hidden” ideology of liberalism even as it denounces that. Second, it means that the Russian people cannot be mobilized to make the sacrifices Russia’s position requires. And third, Khaldey says, it means that the Russian elite and the Russian people cannot draw on the ideas of solidarism that have animated other leaders and states which have been interested in promoting national consolidation. By failing to do so, they have lost sight of the fact that Russia is at the center of “an anti-liberal front of forces.” “The demand for solidarity,” he continues, “is not the exclusive prerogative of fascism. Unity and solidarity are a constant of many other ideologies, with the exception of liberalism” which opposes their core values. Russia’s conflict with the West today is in the same paradigm as the solidarist impulse in the 1930s. According to Khaldey, “the sharper the need for consolidation becomes, the more inevitable will be the formulation of an actual ideology,” one that must draw on elements from the past and adapt them to the conditions of the present because “in all times, people resolve one and the same tasks.” It is clear and disturbing what past he believes Putin and Russia are moving toward.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: March 18 Vote Didn’t Change Russia: It Simply Showed Where Country Now Is, Shelin Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 20 – Like any much-ballyhooed event, the March 18 elections in Russia have already given rise to a variety of myths, Sergey Shelin says; but in fact, they were “completely predictable and did not change our lives either for the worse or the better. They only reminded us in what difficult times” Russia now lives. The Rosbalt commentator points out that this fundamental reality has been obscured because “almost everything that it was easy to predict has come to be viewed as a surprise, while anything genuinely unexpected is being interpreted in a pessimistic spirit” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2018/03/19/1689738.html ). According to Shelin, four notions now dominate public discussion of the elections: that “Putin is popular as never before,” that “the people gave Putin a mandate for war, including a world war,” that the leaders of the progressive forces suffered a crushing defeat, and that “’the voters’ strike’ also completely failed.” All four of these ideas, he says, are either wrong or dramatically overstated. “Let us begin with the last one,” Shelin says. In 2012, participation was 65.3 percent; this year, it was 67.4 percent, a remarkably small increase given all the efforts the regime made this year to boost participation, efforts that recall Soviet times when voting was obligatory. But despite the Kremlin’s moves, 35 million Russians didn’t go to vote. Not all of them were Navalny supporters, but some were and some were also convinced that the nominal opposition candidates were controlled by the powers that be and didn’t want to support them or Putin either. But what all this means is that the regime couldn’t boost participation much from six years ago even with all the means at its disposal. The notion that this election gave Putin a mandate for anything, including war, ignores the fact that this campaign was not about ideas or programs but about ratifying his presence in power and, even more important, that “the main decisions of Vladimir Putin have never been linked to election campaigns,” not YUKOS, not Crimea and not Syria. Only in 1991 and partially in 1996 were presidential votes in Russia “really acts of a struggle for power” and policy. The other elections were about a personality who could and did change without regard to what Russians may think they voted for, Shelin argues. “They were not a real struggle for power or for ideas.” As for the progressive candidates, they did less well in the presidential vote than their predecessors; but those who support their ideas should recognize that the allies of these people have done far better in regional and local elections now than they did a decade or more ago. That should tell such progressives where to focus their efforts now. But one area where the March 18 vote may have mattered in a significant way, the Rosbalt commentator says, is in reordering the so-called “systemic” opposition. The vote may have “knocked down” Navalny but he can rise again. As for Yavlinsky, he should recognize reality and “take a political pension.” Sobchak, given her showbusiness approach, could continue in politics, Shelin says; “but this would be a career in the style of Zhirinovsky.” And it is certainly possible that a liberal could play a role in the future like the national great power chauvinist has played “already for thirty years.” And as for the KPRF, it too has been further marginalized, leaving it unclear whether people like Grudinin will hang on or disappear with the party itself.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russia Can’t Be a Superpower if Russians Think Russian Federation is Russia, Eurasianist Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 18 – Russia can’t be a superpower again if Russians remain prisoners of the twin misconceptions that the Russian Federation is Russia when in fact Russia embraces all the former Soviet space and that the Soviet Union came apart because of the actions of other republics when in fact it was the exit of the RSFSR that led to that tragedy, Mikhail Malash says. Unfortunately, these misunderstandings have their roots in the way in which Soviet citizens were taught about the events of 1917. Too many Russians think the Bolsheviks overthrew the tsar when in fact that was the work of the liberals who destroyed the state and were then overthrown by Lenin and his party, the Eurasianist says (evrazia.org/article/2944). The confusion in the minds of most Russians about that revolutionary year was introduced by the Bolsheviks themselves who recognized that they appeared a fear more serious force if they overthrew the powerful tsarist regime than if they simply pushed aside the pathetic liberal Provisional Government. Historians know the difference between February 1917 and October 1917, Malash says; but ordinary Russians conflate the two, thus opening the way for “contemporary Russian liberals to pretend to be conservatives” because today, the country is ruled by the heirs of the Provisional Government rather than those of the superpowers, the Russian Empire and the USSR. The failure of Russians to understand this distinction has allowed for another stereotype to arise: the view that their country is “the historic successor of the Russian Empire and the USSR,” even though “in Soviet times, they did not take seriously that they were residents of the RSFSR.” “In contrast to the residents of other republics, [the Russians] did not have a republic level of identity. Uzbeks, Moldovans, and Estonians knew perfectly well that they had their own republics with capitals in Tashkent, Chisinau and Tallinn and that in addition there was a Union which was a unity of 15 republics with a capital in Moscow.” Those who lived in the RSFSR “considered themselves citizens of the great Soviet Union on the borderlands of which were union republics. This happened because the Bolsheviks in order to hold power focused on the territory of the former Muscovite state of the pre-Petrine period leaving it surrounded with ethno-historical regimes.” “This territory,” Malash says, “they called Soviet Russia and then the RSFSR.” In large part because of this misconception, he continues, “most Russian residents think that the USSR fell apart because other republics separated from it as their elites wanted independence. In reality, however, the Russian Federation arose when the RSFSR declared itself a sovereign state independent of the union Center.” That happened on June 12, 1990; and to this day, it is marked as Russian “independence day.” A more appropriate understanding, Malash says, is that “the moment when the largest system-forming republic declared itself a sovereign state, the USSR as a state in fact ceased to exist.” The Balts and Georgia moved first, but that is irrelevant. After the Russian action, “the USSR in fact became an international organization.” And then in December at Beloveshchaya, even that ceased to exist, largely because of the actions of the leader of the RSFSR. Unfortunately, Russians are still living with the consequences of that on a daily basis. Their media tells them that everything is good in the Russian Federation and that everything is bad in the former union republics. That leads to conflicts which are unnecessary and which would disappear if Russians would understand how things came to be and that the Russian Federation is only a small part of Russia. Overcoming these two misconceptions – the notion that the liberals in power are in fact conservative patriots and that all the conflicts on the post-Soviet space are the fault of the non-Russians – must be the task of those who want to see the Russian imperial project restored and Russia become again a great power. If those ideas are not dispelled, Malash says, that project will never be realized.

The Russian selection – Washington Times

Perhaps Vladimir Putin was using his experience meddling in U.S. elections to meddle in his own.

Russians seen voting multiple times ‘could be twins’, say election officials | The Independent

A number of people have apparently been pictured casting multiple votes in the Russian presidential election that saw Vladimir Putin win a fourth term as president. Elections officials at several polling station were also observed not keeping count of turnout or the number of ballots cast. Challenged with photographs appearing to show the same people voting more than once, officials said that “they could be twins”.

Seeing ‘Churov’s Saw’: Russian Researcher Says Putin May Have Received 10 Million Fraudulent Votes

A Russian researcher’s analysis of the March 18 presidential election suggests President Vladimir Putin may have received more than 10 million fraudulent votes in his landslide victory.

President of European Council Tusk refuses to congratulate Putin on winning the election

On Wednesday, March 21, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk said that because of the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, …

Putin tells staff to look into Sobchak’s appeal to pardon Ukrainian political prisoners | UNIAN

On March 19, Ksenia Sobchak handed over to Vladimir Putin a request to pardon 16 prisoners, including Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko.

Lavrov to leave office of Foreign Minister of Russia, – mass media – 112.international

Lavrov to leave office of Foreign Minister of Russia, – mass media. Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia will leave his post and will not enter the membership of the new government that will be formed by Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia. RTVI reported this citing the sources closed to the Foreign Ministry. According to the sources, Lavrov wanted to resign from the post, which he occupies since 2004 over the last few years and first of all due to the exhaustion. But, at the urging of Putin, he worked until the presidential election. ‘It is not a secret that he wanted to resign long ago’, one of the workers of the ministry said. According to him and other sources, the Foreign Ministry expects the announcement of the new membership of the government.

Breakthrough In U.S.-Russia Ties ‘Still A Long Way’ Away, Kremlin Says

The Kremlin says a breakthrough is still remote in Russia-U.S. relations despite talk about a possible meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin has Two Reasons for Playing ‘the Jewish Card,’ Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 18 – In the film World Order 2018 and indeed in all his propaganda over the last 18 years, Vladimir Putin has strictly divided the world into two parts: the sacred in which he has brought order and the profane in which Chaos rules “having given birth to the eternal enemy of humanity, the West,” Igor Yakovenko says. There are others besides Putin in the sacred part of the world, the Russian commentator says, including people like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Urban, Dutch Islamophobe Geert Wilders, and German entrepreneur Gerhard Schroeder, who play supporting roles resembling those of Warsaw Pact leaders in Soviet times (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AAA5DB2B37FC). “Among these satellites in Putin’s mythology Israel” and especially its current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is given a key role” in order that no one and especially no Russian “will have any doubt that the Jews of the entire world are behind Putin,” Yakovenko continues. There are too few Jews in Russia for this Putin effort to reflect electoral considerations. Instead, Putin devotes this attention to Jews for two reasons. “First, within Russia, ‘the Jewish theme’ is extremely sensitive not only among representatives of the Jewish people but also among those who by their views and values are part of the liberal intelligentsia.” Such people are not that numerous either, Yakovenko says; but they often influence others at home and abroad far beyond their size. And second, there is the Holocaust. On that issue, Putin has adopted one and only one line: “the West gave birth to Hitler who carried out the Holocaust, and Russia and Stalin destroyed Hitler and saved the Jews. Therefore, the Jews of the entire world must be eternally grateful to Russia, Stalin and also to Putin who although born after the war ‘preserves this memory.’” Anything that calls that logic into question or suggests that the situation was rather more complicated is ignored by Putin and his propagandists. The role of the West in defeating Hitler is cut out of the record and Stalin’s anti-Semitism is papered over, while Putin’s role is presented as self-evident. But, of course, the reality is this: Putin and his regime deserve gratitude for saving the Jews from the Holocaust “to the same degree” that he and his entourage bear direct responsibility for Stalin’s repressions. That is, none at all.

Russian Ops – NY Daily News

As Vladimir Putin is elected to a fourth term as Russian leader, he continues to launch both conventional and cyber attacks against Western interests. Watch the latest episode of World War E for the chilling details.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: ‘Does Russia Exist?’

Paul Goble Staunton, March 17 – In 1986, American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein wrote a seminal article in which he asked “Does India Exist?” He was not suggesting that India does not appear on maps but rather that its development as the product of British imperial rule could have taken that land and its people in entirely different directions if London had decided otherwise. A similar question can be asked of Russia, Dmitry Travin of St. Petersburg’s European University says, because what is called Russia today could have been an entirely different country or countries had leaders in Moscow made different decisions or achieved or not achieved their aims (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2017/02/24/1594035.html). “Just imagine,” he suggests, what would have been the case if Ivan III “had not been able to conquer the free city of Novgorod and unite it to the Muscovite state.” In that case, Novgorod now “would not be only one of numerous provincial Russian cities which means nothing in comparison with the Moscow powers” but something incomparably more. In the 15th century, “Novgorod was a state comparable in power with Muscovy,” with enormous natural resources, links to the West, and a more participatory culture. “Consequently,” Travin says, if the tsars had not conquered it and not repressed it, Moscow wouldn’t have had the resources to pay off its own boyars and build its own wealth and power. Muscovy in that event would not have been able to advance to the south or to the east and thus would not have become an enormous empire. Instead, Travin says, “it would have remained lost in the forests and swamps where Ivan Kalita formed it. It might have been able to avoid being attacked but it would have sat quietly and not shown its nose elsewhere.” Obviously, the St. Petersburg writer says, coming up with such a scenario is not without problems: too many factors are involved. But what is important is this: Russia has gone through many such turning points where if things had gone differently, it would have turned out to be a fundamentally different place. “Present-day Russia is the result of a long historical path on which the country was affected by many accidents and turning points which were not pre-ordained” however much some want to present things otherwise. It was not preordained that people would identify as Russians or be imperial or Orthodoxy or economically backward. Travin devotes much of his article to a discussion of how the region and indeed the world might have looked had Muscovy failed to conquer Novgorod, from the European Union to Siberia to the Islamic world. But he stresses that what is important in engaging in such “alternative histories’ is something other than the fantasies these things may support. And that is this: what millions today imagine as someone eternal and even God-given is “only the product of a definite historical development.” Had things gone even slightly differently at one point, then everything thereafter would have been different as well. And that is true not only of the past but of the present. “Life even now constantly changes us. and even the most respected culture is the object of constant transformations. The most warlike peoples transform themselves into working one as for example the Swedes. Imperial centers into comfortable small corners of civilization as for example Vienna.” And “conquered ethnoses having liberated themselves build national cultures on the language of the conquerors as for example the Irish.” In short, “national culture is a great thing, but life is greater than culture, and the individual is greater than the nation” however great the one appears and however small the other appears at any one date. “Those who understand this achieve success,” Travin says. “But those who don’t struggle their entire lives with specters of the past and inevitably lose.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russia Isn’t a Nation State but Rather a Stratified One of the Very Worst Kind, Pozharsky Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 17 – Most countries around the world are or aspire to be nation states in which all the members of their societies share a common identity and have common rights and responsibilities, Mikhail Pozharsky says; but Russia in contrast, however much its leaders talk about the nation, is in fact divided up into social strata with different identities, rights and duties. In today’s world, the Moscow commentator says, “the only alternative to a nation state is a strata society,” and Russia under Vladimir Putin has again become one, thus rejecting or being deprived of the rights and freedoms which only a nation state can provide its people (mbk.media/sences/mixail-pozharskij-edinstvennoj/). Present-day Russia, Pozharsky says, “suspiciously recalls a strata-based society. It is obviously divided into groups which have different rights and different responsibilities. For example, the average ‘Chechen’ has somewhat different rights than the average ‘Russian.’’ He can be almost openly a racketeer, but he also has certain limits: he cannot be gay. Similarly, “the average resident of Russia and the officer of the FSB have completely different rights” and this will lead them to behave in completely different ways. If an FSB officer runs over a pedestrian, he will simply record the license plate number and go on, confident that “nothing will happen to him,” something very different from the situation of other Russians. Thus, Pozharsky says, “we live in an obviously strata-based society and at that in one of its worst variants. All these different rights, privileges and responsibilities are nowhere written done or set in stone. They exist in an unwritten form because ‘everyone understands.’” But that also means no one can count on them either. Russia’s failure to move toward a nation state as Ukraine and other countries has, the commentator continues, “is entirely connected with the historical fate of Russian nationalism.” The Uvarov trinity of the 19th century – Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality – provides a clue to understanding why Russia is what it is. The nation is put in third place, after Orthodoxy and Autocracy, an indication, Pozharsky says, that the nation exists not in its own right but to support the other two, that is, “to feed the tsar, the priests and the nobility.” That pattern, of course, “was not a purely Russian phenomenon.” Crudely speaking, there is the nationalism of a social contract like that in England or the nationalism of the realization of the state as the highest form of existence as Fichte and Hegel postulated for Germany two centuries ago. Russia is part of the latter world, not the former. Thus in this sphere as in so many others, “Russia did not think up something new in principle but simply borrowed this idea” and imposed it with such force and enthusiasm that many Russians imagine it to be uniquely theirs. But they understand very well that spontaneous, contractual nationalism is something quite alien to theirs That keeps nationalism and liberalism apart in Russia, something that was not the case in Britain, and makes it very difficult to explain to Russian liberals that “nationalism is not xenophobia” and to Russian nationalists that liberalism, which releases the power of the nation, is not their enemy. Both the protests of 2011-2012 and even more the responses of Russians to the events in Ukraine in 2014 confirm that, Pozharsky continues. According to him, “Crimea and ‘the Russian spring’ were [not] the result of some long-term geopolitical plan. The Kremlin reacted to the situation but things turned out very conveniently for it.” As so often in the past, Russian nationalists and Russian liberals both found themselves deceived by the Russian state for the usual Uvarov rules: the nationalists soon discovered that the Russian state wasn’t interested in national rebirth in their understanding; and the liberals found themselves at odds with the imperial nature of the state. Those differences kept them apart. Of course, Pozharsky says, there are also “objective preconditions for the formation of a nation state. These include a diversified economy, the existence of a bourgeoisie and middle class with its own interests which can unify others around these interests.” And Russia lacks all of these as well. Russia today is “a state in which two-thirds of the budget comes from oil and gas sales and most of the middle class consists of state employees or those whose livelihood is based on state contracts. It is understandable that to mobilize them for a national project is much more difficult than in countries where these nation states were formed historically.” That is in countries like the US, “a country of a bourgeoisie and farms,” Pozharsky explains. “But we have a country of state employees, policemen, and those who depend on them.” For such a country, a social strata state is easier to organize and likely to keep a nation state from appearing.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Cossacks Close to Getting Legal Recognition by Moscow as a Separate Nation

Paul Goble Staunton, March 19 – The Russian justice ministry is working on legislation defining the Cossacks as an independent people rather than simply a social stratum within the Russian nation. If they get that status, some Russians fear, that will open their way to demand independence particularly given that then they can legitimately claim to have been victims of genocide. On the Versiya portal, Russian commentator Igor Yegorov says that such talk raises the question “Is Cossackia not Russia?” the answer to which, he suggests, most Russians had assumed was settled a long time ago and need not be revisited now (versia.ru/kubanskie-kazaki-zaxoteli-stat-narodom). Yegorov says that the initiator of this new federal law is Nikolay Doluda, the ataman of the Kuban Cossack host. The Cossack says that “the most important” aspect of the draft legislation is that “the status of Cossackry is defined in the document as a special form of state and social life of a self-standing people – a people and nothing other.” “In other words, the Versiya commentator says, those who have drafted this legislation believe that “in the south of Russia lives a certain independent people, the Cossacks, and these are in no way Russians.” It thus opens the way for the Cossacks to carry out a planned 2020 census of the population to determine who is a Cossack and who is a Russian. A little over a year ago, he continues, the Presidential Council on Cossack Affairs called for the preparation of “a ‘big’ law on Russian Cossacks,” something the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs approved. “No one disputes that such a law is important and necessary. But why run to the extremes?” Many Cossacks do believe they are a separate people and not a social stratum of the Russian nation, Yegorov concedes; but not everyone in Moscow has reflected on what it will mean if the Cossacks are defined that way in legal terms. If they become a nation, the Cossacks will be able to justify their Day of the Cossack Genocide on January 24. That is because only a people may be subject to genocide: a social class or stratum can’t be, however much it may have suffered. And if the Cossacks are a people who has been subject to a genocide, they are well on their way to demanding independent statehood under current international law. Those working on the draft insist they have not made this concession. According to them, Yegorov says, “the document does not contain a precise formulation that the Cossacks are a self-standing ethnos.” But that is hardly the end of the story, he argues, given what the draft legislation does say. “Paragraph 2 of the draft law contains the following definition: ‘The Russian Cossacks are a historically evolved ethno-cultural community of citizens living on definite territories and having a unique culture, traditional economic arrangements and forms of dress.” That almost completely “coincides with the Stalinist definition of ‘the nation’ as a people.” Ask any legal specialist about the way these two things coincide and he will tell you that they do whatever the drafters of the legislation think, the Versiya commentator says. And if the Cossacks are given this, soon they will want their own independent national territory, something that would carve up the Russian Federation. Since 1959, when the US Captive Nations Week law was passed, many have laughed at the very idea of Cossackia as a place deserving national self-determination. But with this new law, the Cossacks in all their diversity are closer to being able to make that claim on the ground than they have ever been. Not surprisingly, some Russians are worried. There are now some five million Cossacks in 12 hosts from the Arctic to the southern borders of Russia and from the western edge of that country to the Pacific. If a significant number of them pursue self-determination, that will pose perhaps the largest ethnic challenge the Russian Federation has ever faced.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Telephone Bomb Threats Continue, Destabilizing Russia’s Regions and Republics

Paul Goble Staunton, March 16 – Since last September, telephone bomb threats have led to the evacuation of more than three million Russians in thousands of buildings in hundreds of cities and towns across the Russian Federation, something the government-controlled Moscow media have only provided sporadic reports about. But for those forced to exit the buildings as a result of these false bomb reports – and fortunately, there has not been a single incident in which a bomb exploded or was even found – and for officials who are compelled to react lest a particular threat prove true, this has been an unnerving time. Indeed, Kamilzhan Kalandarov, the head of the Institute for Human Rights, and Yana Amelina, the coordinator of the Caucasus Geopolitical Club, say that “false reports about bombs” such as one that emptied a school in Rostov last week are destabilizing the situation in advance of the elections” (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/317845/). Unlike in most cases, the person responsible for the telephone threat has been caught; but that doesn’t lessen the concerns of many. The mother of one student said she was skeptical about such calls because she remembered her own youth in the early 1990s when students who didn’t want to take a test would telephone a bomb threat so school would be called off. But others are more worried, the Kavkaz Uzel news agency reports. Another Rostov mother said she was now considering home schooling for her children. But it suggested most residents are satisfied with the way the authorities have responded in a calm way. Kalandarov for his part says that the telephone bomb threats are “directed toward weakening the sense of security people have; but they have had the unintended consequence of increasing “the vigilance of people.” He said tough new laws were not enough to end this plague and urged that social censure be stepped up against those who make such calls. He complains that the authorities aren’t providing enough information about the perpetrators. “But we should know about this,, they must be shamed before their neighbors, relatives and colleagues.” And they shouldn’t be dismissed as “hooliganism.” Such attacks are “terrorism pure and simple.” The rights activist says that “’definite forces’” are behind these telephone threats and hope to use them to destabilize the country especially as it heads toward the presidential election. Such threats can spread fear and lead people to stay home rather than going to the polls and voting. Amelina, a specialist on the North Caucasus, agrees. It is obvious, she says, that reports about such threats are spread through the Internet by those who want to spread “hysteria and fear” and thus “destabilize the situation in one or another region of Russia” by reducing public confidence in the authorities. She says she has been “somewhat surprised” that there haven’t been more such incidents, a pattern that she credited to the good work of the law enforcement agencies. But more needs to be done both by state organs and by propaganda in the population so that people will know “about the real situation” as far as security is concerned.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Social Chamber Says Activists Seek to Use Elections to Spark Ethnic and Religious Tensions

Paul Goble Staunton, March 15 – For the entire period of Putin’s reign, Russian officials and analysts have regularly said that ethnic and religious activists will seek to exploit elections in general and presidential votes in particular to spark ethnic and religious tensions and thus advance their respective agendas. This week, Mufti Albir Krganov, a member of the Social Chamber’s Commission on Harmonizing Inter-Ethnic and Inter-Religious Relations, repeated that suggestion in a conference call of regional social chambers and called on them to do what they can to block such “interference” (nazaccent.ru/content/26779-v-op-rf-zayavili-o-popytke.html). He said that “religious and national organizations or groups can be involved in conflict situations between various participants in the electoral process, often becoming the occasion for public political scandals in the media and sometimes taking part in even more complicated forms.” According to Krganov, he has evidence that some members of these groups are spreading the story via the Internet that those who go to the polls will be recorded on someone’s video camera and their presence will land them in difficulty later, an indication that he and others fear the non-Russians and non-Orthodox are trying to push down participation and will suffer for it. But except for fears expressed by those close to the Kremlin, there has been little evidence of this. Over the past week, the Bashkort organization in Bashkortostan did announce that it was not supporting any candidate because none were supporting federalism (vk.com/boobashkort?w=wall-70958470_172518). But most ethnic and religious groups have come out in support of Putin or at least opposed to any boycott. Among them are the Russian Orthodox Church, most muftiates, the World Congress of Tatars, and Mari El Mariy Ushem organization (nazaccent.ru/content/26773-vsemirnyj-kongress-tatar-podderzhit-putina-na.html, and kommersant.ru/doc/3569492). Some have done so out of convictions, others from pressure, and still others because of calculations that doing otherwise would create problems for themselves; but none appears likely to be able to deliver all its members either for or against the incumbent president or to spark the tensions Moscow fears (mariuver.com/2018/03/14/kudrjavcev-mu/).

Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov warns of a Russia increasingly devoid of freedoms

Chess master turned human rights advocate Garry Kasparov warns of a Russia increasingly devoid of freedoms in the age of President Vladimir Putin.

The Daily Vertical: Rules for Russia (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL. Earlier this week, Vladimir Putin instructed his diplomats to seek changes to international doping regulations to make the rules “fair” and “transparent.” Putin wasn’t specific about what this would mean. It’s unclear what exactly the Kremlin thinks unfair or nontransparent about current international doping regulations and what he thinks needs to be changed. And until he decides to make this clear, we won’t know. But what we do know is that Putin didn’t seem to have any problem with the rules as they are — until, of course, Russia got caught red-handed breaking them again, and again, and again. WATCH Today’s Daily Vertical And this is pretty much emblematic of the Putin regime’s approach, not just to doping rules, but to all rules — but only as they apply to Russia. Putin’s Kremlin wants the rest of the world to follow international law — but it effectively seeks an exemption from rules that forbid Russia from invading its neighbors and forcefully annexing their territory. It insists on the absolute sanctity of Russia’s sovereignty — while reserving the right to violate the sovereignty of Russia’s neighbors. It warns the West against interfering in Russia’s elections — while flagrantly interfering in the elections in Western countries. It doesn’t obey rules that prohibit corruption and money laundering and doesn’t obey rules against hacking. By its words and deeds, the Putin regime has demonstrated over and over that it wants the rest of the world to follow the rules — while Russia gets an exception. And just as this gives Russia’s chemically enhanced athletes an unfair advantage in sports, it also gives Moscow an asymmetrical advantage in foreign affairs and advances the Kremlin’s revanchist ambitions.

The Morning Vertical, March 18, 2018

Earlier this week, Vladimir Putin instructed his diplomats to seek changes to international doping regulations to make the rules “fair” and “transparent.” Putin wasn’t specific about what this would mean, but it is symbolic of the Kremlin’s approach to all rules as they apply to Russia. But if history is any guide, fair and transparent rules in his estimation seems to mean an exemption from the rules for Moscow. As I note in today’s Daily Vertical, the Kremlin leader has made it clear again and again that he doesn’t like the rules-based international order that emerged after the Cold War and wants it revised to effectively allow Russia to violate rules protecting the sovereignty of its neighbors. It is worth noting that, just days after Putin made his remarks, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency complained of slow progress by Russian authorities toward making the country’s anti-doping agency, RUSADA, compliant with international standards.

Russia ignored four requests to inspect anti-doping lab, says Wada | Sport | The Guardian

The World Anti-Doping Agency president, Craig Reedie, has warned Russia that it will not be allowed back in ‘from the cold’ until it acknowledges its state-sponsored doping programme

Putin Seeks Changes In Anti-Doping Rules That Led To Bans On Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed his country’s envoys to seek changes in international doping rules that have led to Russia’s banishment from major world sporting events since 2015.

Telegram App Under The Gun In Russia After Supreme Court Ruling

Telegram could potentially be blocked in Russia after the Supreme Court ruled that the popular app must provide the Federal Security Service (FSB) with encryption keys needed to read users’ messagi…

Russian Airlines Ordered To Ground All An-148 Aircraft After Deadly Crash

Russia’s state transport agency Rostransnadzor has ordered the country’s airlines to ground their Antonov An-148 aircraft after one crashed last month.

UAWire – Putin gets almost 85% of the vote from Russians abroad

Vladimir Putin received 84.99% of the vote from Russians who went to polling stations abroad, RIA Novosti reported, citing a member of Russia’s …

Russia Declares U.S. German Marshall Fund ‘Undesirable’

Russia’s government has added the German Marshall Fund of the United States to its list of foreign entities whose activities are deemed “undesirable” in the country.

Prosecutors want a Russian historian imprisoned for nine years, despite a public uproar — Meduza

Prosecutors in Petrozavodsk asked a local court to sentence historian Yuri Dmitriev, the head of the Karelian branch of the human rights group “Memorial,” to nine years in prison. In late January, a court declined to extend Dmitriev’s arrest (after he’d already spent 13 months in jail). In December 2016, police arrested Dmitriev on suspicion of creating child pornography by photographing his adopted daughter. Dmitriev says the pictures were non-sexualized and intended purely to track the child’s health. The group Memorial and several prominent public cultural figures have defended him, saying the allegations are fabricated. As part of the investigation, Dmitriev was subjected to psychological analysis, and doctors found that he isn’t prone to any deviant sexual behavior. Yuri Dmitriev is responsible for locating several mass graves in Karelia from the 1930s.

FSB Holds Crimean Tatar Activist For Questioning, Wife Fears Terror Charge

Crimean Tatar activist Nariman Memediminov has been taken in for questioning by Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers and may face charges of propagating terrorism, his wife says.

Prosecutors Seek Nine Years In Prison For Russian Activist Charged With Child Pornography

Prosecutors in a politically charged child-pornography case have asked a Russian court to convict Yury Dmitriyev, a historian and activist who says he is innocent, and sentence him to nine years in…

Window on Eurasia — New Series: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Now Greater Threat to Russia than Terrorism, Duma Deputy Says

Paul Goble Staunton, March 20 – One of the consequences of Vladimir Putin’s “good news only” order in the run-up to the elections is that now that they are over, the bad news Russian outlets had held back is now coming tumbling out, likely putting a damper on any particular enthusiasm Russians may have for the outcome. Among the most serious of these pieces of bad news is a report by Rosstat showing that HIV/AIDS infections are rising dramatically and that newly registered infections have increased continuously from 57,200 in 2010 to 88,600 in 2017 (iz.ru/720365/elina-khetagurova/zabolevaemost-vich-vyrosla-v-15-raza and rosbalt.ru/posts/2018/03/20/1690170.html). The state statistics agency argues that these numbers reflect better identification of those with HIV/AIDS rather than an increase in their overall number, but many observers, including Duma deputy Fedot Tumusov, say that everyone knows that the real numbers, both base and increase, are far higher than the government acknowledges. This disease, the deputy insists, is “the real threat to the nation. Not terrorism, but HIV/AIDS. And until the government develops a real program for combatting it … we will be fighting with statistics written down on paper and not for a real decline in the numbers.” Rosstat continues to say that there are only 940,000 HIV infected Russians, “less than one percent of the population,” but most health care experts say the real number is far higher. Worse, they point out, the increases have been accelerating over the last few years after a period of relative stability up to 2013. And they point out that “the more people who are infected with the virus, the greater the probability of its spread because once someone has been infected, he or she remains a carrier of the virus for life.” The experts call for devoting more attention to drug users and supplying them with clean needles. They also urge providing free condoms on the streets for both homosexual and heterosexual Russians, and they call for expanding government support for treatment of those with HIV/AIDS. Last year, Moscow boosted spending on such treatment but “fewer than 40 percent” of those who needed it received it. Last year, health officials say, many Russians with HIV/AIDS were not able to get any anti-retroviral medications because of their cost, something they hope will be a thing of the past now that Moscow has taken responsibility for buying them away from the regions, thus driving down costs.

Duma Ethics Commission Clears Senior Deputy Of Sexual Impropriety

A closed session of the Russian State Duma’s ethics commission has exonerated senior lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of wrongdoing in connection with accusations by three female journalists that he sexuall…

Media Outlets Quit Russian Duma After Commission Clears Deputy Accused Of Sexual Harassment

Several media outlets have pulled their correspondents from the Russian parliament’s lower chamber after a parliamentary ethics commission exonerated Leonid Slutsky, a senior State Duma lawmaker who is facing sexual harassment allegations from at least three journalists.

The Moscow region’s great trash upheaval: A movement against poor trash management and public health risks erupts outside Russia’s capital — Meduza

Several protests against landfills and trash incineration plants took place outside Moscow in mid-March. The local authorities are largely ignoring the demonstrations and refusing to comment on the matter, even when some of these rallies attract upwards of 5,000 people. Meduza takes a closer look at this movement.

Dozens Of Children Hospitalized After Landfill Gas Leak Near Moscow

Dozens of children have been hospitalized after apparently breathing toxic gas leaked from a landfill in Volokolamsk, a town near Moscow.

Putin Is Popular in Russia, But His Policies Stink – Bloomberg

Volokolamsk’s foul air is a direct consequence of the Putin system, but the Russian leader is not the target of popular discontent.

Russian Schoolgirl Shoots Classmates With Gas Pistol, Seven Injured

A 13-year-old girl has opened fire with a gas pistol at her school in Russia’s Kurgan region, injuring seven seventh graders, police say.

Suit Settled In Death Of Russian ‘Star Trek’ Actor Crushed By SUV

The parents of Anton Yelchin, a Russian-born actor known for his role in Star Trek films, said on March 22 they reached a settlement with the makers of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV that crushed and …

Book review I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

‘I Was Anastasia’ is historical fiction about whether the youngest daughter of Russia’s czar survived the 1918 slaughter. A 4-star book review.

Central Asia / Caucasus Reports

The Daily Vertical: Another Victim Of Empire (Transcript)

All wars, all occupations, and all empires have victims. And all of the victims have names. And we now know the name of one of the latest victims of Vladimir Putin’s imperial wars and imperial ambitions. This week the body of Archil Tatunashvili was handed over to Georgian authorities through the International Committee of the Red Cross. Tatunashvili was a 35-year-old Georgian citizen who lived near the occupation line of the Russian-controlled South Ossetia region. And like many in the area, he had friends and relatives on both sides of the boundary and often crossed to make his livelihood selling fruits and vegetables. WATCH Today’s Daily Vertical On February 22, he was apprehended by pro-Moscow authorities who accused him of “genocide against South Ossetia,” ties with the Georgian security agencies, and “preparing acts of sabotage” in the breakaway region before Russia’s presidential election. He died in custody. Pro-Moscow separatist authorities say he fought with his interrogators and fell down a flight of stairs in the struggle. Tatunashvili’s relatives say his body shows signs of torture and claim that pro-Moscow security services in South Ossetia killed him. Now, we don’t know who is right, of course — and it doesn’t really matter. Because we do know some things. We know that South Ossetia is legally Georgian territory and that Tatunashvili was a Georgian citizen. We know that he was detained by proxies of an occupying foreign power for exercising his free right to free movement within his own country. And we know that if Russia wasn’t occupying Georgian territory, Archil Tatunashvili would probably be alive today.

Russia Launches Military Exercises In Crimea, Abkhazia, Day After Presidential Vote

Russian armed forces have launched large-scale military exercises in southern parts of the country and in occupied Crimea and the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Belarus Reports

Lukashenko: Russia is afraid of ‘losing Belarus’

Russia will be the first to give a helping hand to Belarus because “they are still afraid of losing Belarus,” stated Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a youth meeting, BelTA news agency reports. Lukashenko spoke about the history of Belarus, particularly the hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Belarusian People’s Republic that lasted less than a year. “A strong desire to make Belarus independent could push them even to Kaiser, or God knows who else. There were such people as well. Is it a good page in our history? Probably not,” Lukashenko said and noted that this topic “should not be pressed even if you hate everything related to Russia.” “Russians are our brothers. They are different; there are good ones and bad ones. Sometimes, our milk is not allowed there, or they do not allow our sugar to be sold there, or they stop supplying us with oil or gas. It happens. I have been through it in full,” the Belarusian leader added. He noted that politicians are meant to resolve such controversial questions. “But it does not mean that they are our enemies. Who will be the first to give a helping hand to us? Russians. The reasons won’t matter. They are still afraid of losing Belarus,” he concluded. Earlier, the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) promised to impose restrictions on supplies of Belarusian dairy products to Russia after violations were identified. The restrictions should have been imposed on February 26 but the date was changed several times and as a result, on March 14, the agency decided to abandon these measures, promising to conduct additional checks of Belarusian companies. Lukashenko called the ban on Belarusian milk “a blatant political instrument” used by Russia.

EU Lawmakers Slam Brussels Over Belarus Policy

Thirty-five members of the European Parliament have criticized the European Union’s position toward Belarus in a letter, saying that the bloc’s relationship with Minsk is centered on economic coo…

Transnistria / Moldova Reports

Moldovan Shoplifter Kills Himself, Another When His Grenade Explodes

Two people were killed and two more were injured in Moldova on March 20 in the explosion of a grenade set off by a man trying to leave a shop in the capital without paying for several packs of ciga…

Russia / Iran / Syria / Iraq / OEF Reports

Senate, Trump clash over Saudi Arabia | TheHill

The Senate is headed for a clash with the Trump administration over Saudi Arabia this week.

Trump Death of Iran’s Nuclear Deal Could Set Oil Bulls Loose – Bloomberg

Trump will surely want to find a way of killing Iran’s exports.

Why Russia, Assad, and Iran combined don’t stand a chance against just 2,000 US troops in Syria | Business Insider

Russia Blocks UN Meeting On Human Rights In Syria, Prompting Outcry

Russia has blocked a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the human rights situation in Syria, prompting an angry response from other UN members.

UAWire – Russia says it knows about American plans to strike Syria

The United States deployed in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf warships carrying cruise missiles for possible strikes on the …

UAWire – US-led coalition strikes Syrian and Russian forces in Deir ez-Zor

Dozens of Syrian Army soldiers, Iranian-backed militias, and Russian military came under bombardment by the US-Led coalition on Thursday in the …

Syrian Rebels Evacuate Town In Eastern Ghouta Under Russian-Brokered Deal

Syrian rebels have withdrawn in busloads from a town in eastern Ghouta and handed it over to the Syrian army under a Russian-brokered evacuation deal.

Syria war: Centre of city of Afrin seized – Turkey – BBC News

Turkish-backed forces control the centre of the Syrian-Kurdish city of Afrin, says Turkey’s leader.

Charges Dropped From Erdogan Bodyguards | The Daily Caller

Federal investigators last month quietly dropped charges against 11 of 15 members of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail.

UAWire – Russian Foreign Minister claims that Special Forces of the US, Britain, France and other countries are working in Syria

In an interview with the telecommunications company of the President Kazakhstan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Special …

Iraq recovers bodies of 38 Indians abducted by IS in 2014 – SFGate

The U.S. Alliance With Turkey Is Worth Preserving – Foreign Policy

Ankara is a difficult friend. That doesn’t mean the United States should cut it loose.

The Latest: Turkey vows to expand Syria operation – The Washington Post

The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):

Confrontation with Nato allies looms after Turkey seizes Afrin | World | The Times

Turkish-backed troops swept into the centre of the fiercely contested town of Afrin yesterday, raising the prospect of Ankara directly challenging Kurdish forces elsewhere in northern Syria, where they are supported by western forces. Following the capture of the town from Kurdish fighters

Israeli defense chief regrets clearing 2007 Syria nuclear reactor strike for publication – Israel News – Haaretz.com

Israel claimed credit for the 2007 attack, 11 years after it was carried out to stop Syria from developing a nuclear capacity with North Korean help

Israel Admits to 2007 Strike on Suspected Syrian Nuclear Site

The attack was widely assumed to be the work of Israel’s military, which says the attack serves as a warning to others

Palestinian leader calls US ambassador to Israel ‘son of a dog’ – France 24

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday called the US ambassador to Israel a “son of a dog” because of his support for Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

Israel says it destroys new Hamas tunnel network in Gaza – The Washington Post

The Israeli military said Sunday it destroyed a tunnel built by the Hamas militant group.

The War Against Saddam’s Image—and The Man Preserving It Now | Time

Fifteen years after the Iraq War began, the politician who helped oversee Saddam’s execution is trying to preserve the regime’s history

Time for America to Declare Victory in Syria and Come Home | The National Interest Blog

The United States did what it needed to in Syria: defeated the Islamic State. Now everyone else in the Middle East should play clean-up.

DPRK / PRC / WESTPAC Reports

U.S., South Korea push forward with plans for war games, testing goodwill with North Korea

Military chiefs from the United States and South Korea announced Tuesday a plan to resume the annual military exercises that were delayed by the Winter Olympics.

Sweden helping negotiate release of Americans in North Korea: report | TheHill

Sweden is in talks with North Korea to negotiate the release of three American citizens being held hostage by the government in Pyongyang,

Sweden Negotiates for Release of U.S. Prisoners in North Korea – The Daily Beast

The move comes amid a spate of diplomatic meetings thought to be in preparation for a Trump-Kim summit.

North Korea-Sweden Talks Focus on ‘Peaceful Solution’ to Nuclear Conflict – The New York Times

The Swedish and North Korean foreign ministers concluded three days of talks, discussions which may help facilitate a meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

North Korean diplomat heads to Finland for US talks | The Seattle Times

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A senior North Korean diplomat handling North American affairs was heading to Finland on Sunday for talks with the U.S. and South Korea. Choe Kang…

Peace in Our Time on the Korean Peninsula? | The National Interest Blog

Using negotiations to divide Washington and Seoul and gain time to continue missile and nuclear development are time-honored DPRK strategies.

North Korea’s Most Powerful Missile Now Has Its Own Shrine – The New York Times

Satellite imaging, astronomy and a smart hunch about North Korea propaganda confirmed the launching site of the North Korean missile and a new monument.

Nobody Knows Anything About China – Foreign Policy

 

Chinese paper says China should prepare for military action over Taiwan

A widely read Chinese state-run newspaper said on Thursday China should prepare for military action over self-ruled Taiwan, and pressure Washington over cooperation on North Korea, after the United States passed a law to boost ties with Taiwan.

China: We will hit back if US announces new tariffs – Mar. 22, 2018

China says it will take retaliatory action if President Trump announces plan for billions in new tariffs.

China’s New ‘Helmsman’ Turns a Congress Into a Coronation – The New York Times

President Xi Jinping’s speech on the last day of the National People’s Congress in Beijing was heavy on patriotism and underscored his dominance.

All President Xi’s Men: China’s New Government Braces for Trump – WSJ

China’s President Xi Jinping, cleared to stay in power indefinitely and with top lieutenants in place, faces a looming trade war and rocky relations with the U.S.

China Acknowledges Sale Of Advanced Missile Technology To Pakistan : The Two-Way : NPR

The technology, described as a “large-scale optical tracking and measurement system” is reportedly for use in testing Pakistani ballistic missiles that can carry multiple warheads.

Emboldened Xi lays out vision for China, warning for Taiwan – The Washington Post

President Xi Jinping vowed Tuesday to protect “every inch” of China’s territory, improve the lives of its people and promote the resurgence of Chinese culture and creativity as he kicked off his second term, poised to rule indefinitely.

China’s New Frontiers in Dystopian Tech – Defense One

Facial-recognition technologies are proliferating, from airports to bathrooms.

Why America Is So Scared of China’s Biggest Tech Company – Bloomberg

U.S. politicians may not be able to pronounce “Huawei,” but they’re convinced it’s a threat to national security.

Book review – Clive Hamilton’s Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia

Clive Hamilton’s book is perhaps a useful reminder that we must not be naïve about our relationship with China, but his prescription is the wrong direction for tackling the genuine issues he raises.

China ‘seeks to tilt our political landscape to its advantage’

The powerful US House Armed Services Committee in Washington has been told by Malcolm Turnbulls former adviser how China has sought to brazenly manipulate Australian society to tilt the political and strategic landscape to its advantage.

John Garnaut in Washington: China is “manipulating” Australia – MacroBusiness

China, not North Korea, to dominate Japan military planning

North Korea’s growing missile arsenal might be the most obvious and immediate military threat facing Japan, but defense planners in Tokyo are focused on a much larger and more challenging foe as they prepare for the years ahead.

Taiwan Wants U.S. F-35 Jets To Defend Against Chinese Invasion

The F-35B variant, which has vertical take-off and landing, would allow Taiwan to fight back even China destroyed its runways.

Lavrov Visit To Vietnam ‘Canceled’ At Last Minute

The French AFP news agency is reporting that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s planned visit to Vietnam has been called off for “unexpected reasons.”

Foreign Policy Reports

The West urgently needs a plan to stand up to autocrats – CNN

Vladimir Putin is back in the driving seat, controlling the narrative, with no one apparently able to stop him. It is precisely where he wants to be.

Europe’s Russia Knot – WSJ

A stern statement on the chemical attack is the best Britain will get.

Russia will target European elections in 2019, former NATO boss says

Anders Fogh Rasmussen wants the EU and the U.S. to issue fresh sanctions targeted directly at Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

DW | Europe on Twitter: “”The EU [..] should act against such persons.” – Ukrainian Foreign Minister @PavloKlimkin urges sanctions on former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder over pro-#Russia lobbying. via our reporter @terischultz… https://t.co/OMgZGNtJH0″

 

Ukraine foreign minister urges tougher Russia action, World Cup boycott | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.03.2018

The UK nerve agent attack shows Russia has no “red lines” anymore, says Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. In an interview with DW, he contends that Moscow’s aggression against Kyiv could happen anywhere now.

Russia Will Need Ukraine’s Gas Pipelines to Europe After 2019 – Bloomberg

Russia is going to need Ukraine for natural gas shipments for a while yet.

UAWire – Russia’s Gazprom starts dismantling Turkish Stream pipeline

Gazprom has abandoned the hope of turning the Turkish Stream project into a gas pipeline for mass exportation to Europe. As Interfax reported on Monday, the Russian gas company is preparing to begin dismantling the Southern Gas Corridor pipelines which were initially constructed for the South Stream and were later transferred to the Turkish Stream. According to the plan, the Turkish Stream was supposed to supply Turkey and the EU with 63 billion cubic meters of gas per year. However, a framework agreement could only be reached with Ankara concerning two of the four pipelines. Due to the 50% reduction in the Turkish Stream’s capacity, Gazprom ended up with 506 kilometers of surplus pipe along the Pocinki-Anapa route from the Saratov province to Krasnodar Krai. Both the pipes and the Morshansk gas measuring station are to be dismantled. The construction of the third and fourth sequences of compressor stations will be put on hold “until the decision is made to realize the facilities in question”, according to information from Gazprom. The total cost of the facilities which were prepared for the South Stream and then the Turkish Stream, and which ultimately ended up as incomplete construction projects on Gazprom’s balance sheet, was estimated at 46 billion rubles at the start of 2017. Currently Gazprom is proceeding with the laying of two lines of the Turkish Stream along the bottom of the Black Sea, with a total capacity of 31 billion cubic meters

U.S. warns of sanctions against companies engaged in Nord Stream 2 | UNIAN

Nauert said the pipeline would undermine Europe’s overall energy security and stability. Spokesperson for the U.S. Department Heather Nauert has said sanctions can be introduced against those companies which are engaged in construction and financing the Nord Stream 2 project. “So in general, as a general matter as you all know, we don’t tend to comment on sanctions actions, but we’ve been clear that firms that work in the Russian energy export pipeline sector could – if they engage in that kind of business, they could expose themselves to sanctions under CAATSA,” Nauert told a briefing in Washington March 20, 2018, answering the question whether the sanctions should be introduced against the companies which are engaged in construction and financing of the projects like Nord Stream 2 or Turkish Stream 2.

American senators sign open letter on Nord Stream – 2 danger – 112.international

39 senators – 28 from the Republican Party and 11 from the Democratic – made a stand against pipeline Nord Stream – 2. This is stated in the letter, which parliamentarians sent to Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and to Deputy Secretary Lohn Sullivan. The document was made public on the website of republican John Barrasso. “We have to make sure that our European allies realize out aspirations to support their energy independence and prevent them from a further harmful influence of Nord Stream – 2,” the letter says. The senators also noted that Donald Trump’s administration has to apply “all existing means” to prevent the construction of the pipeline.

The End of the Petrodollar? | The National Interest

This long-term economic trend should greatly trouble Washington.

Nord Stream-2 to put Europe into full dependence on Kremlin-operated gas supplier – Yatsenyuk | UNIAN

Nord Stream-2 is an anti-Ukrainian, anti-Polish, anti-Slovak, and anti-European project, former prime minister of Ukraine now heading the People’s Front party leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told an international conference in Warsaw titled Revolution, War, and their Consequences. “How can one support the project which Russia employs to capture the European Union energy market?” Yatsenyuk said, according to the party’s press service. He emphasized the need to take steps toward energy security: “The question also arises about the unity in the European Union: what comes first? Is it business, economy, or values? And it’s not only values, but also awareness of energy challenges for EU member states.”

Italian elections open the door toward Russia wider – CEPA STRATCOM PROGRAM.

In Italy’s 4 March parliamentary elections, voters—angered by high unemployment, stagnant wages, uncontrolled immigration, and a self-serving political class—gave half their ballots to two populist parties, the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Northern League. Both are hostile to the European Union and sympathetic to Moscow’s geopolitical claims in Europe. Mathematically, no new government can be formed without them. The results are likely to help undermine EU unity in general, weaken the consensus behind EU sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and strengthen the Kremlin’s energy agenda, which includes using Gazprom energy shipments to Europe as a political weapon. Although evidence points to Russian meddling in the campaign, Moscow’s influence on Italian politics dates back decades. During the Cold War, the Italian Communist Party controlled some regional and city governments and received financial support from the Kremlin. Many Italian right-wing and neo-fascist intellectuals have been in contact with Russian ultranationalists since the early 1990s. Italy depends on Russian energy, and Moscow for years reportedly has given money to some Italian politicians. In recent years, as the country’s economy has stagnated and worries about immigration and corruption have increased, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity has soared. Italians widely view him as an effective leader who opposes globalization—an image fueled by Russia propaganda. In 2012-13 the Kremlin began actively engaging anti-establishment forces in Italy, encouraging them to embrace a pro-Russian stance and using them to exert influence inside Italy. Today, Russia supports both 5SM and the Northern League, primarily in the form of visibility in Kremlin-controlled international media. However, no publicly available evidence exists to suggest that Moscow provides them financial support. During the campaign and in discussing the results, Russian news outlets and officials usually avoided covering accusations of Kremlin interference. They instead focused on the EU’s alleged failure to govern effectively—and they expressed hope the results would strengthen Russian-Italian ties. “We regard [the election] as Italy’s domestic affair, the sovereign right of Italian citizens to cast their votes for the political powers which they see fit for the future of their country,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He added that Russia “want[s] Italy to remain our gracious and long-term partner, and [we want] Europe to be prosperous, while fostering and holding benevolent relations with the Russian Federation based on the principles of mutual benefit and shared respect.” Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said Moscow expected to cooperate with the future Italian government and maintain the continuity in Russian-Italian relations.” In parliament, one Russian senator compared Italy’s elections to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. The similarity, he argued, was that both Italians and Americans chose to go down a “new policy direction.” Konstantin Kosachev, head of Russia’s Federation Council International Affairs Committee, wrote on Facebook: “The outcome of Italy’s polls holds three key pieces of information, but none of them contain anything sensational. The first is that Italian voters made an articulate decision to change the authorities in their country. Consequently, the socialists’ years-long rule had ended up letting [the voters] down, and demand for a new policy course has emerged. Things like this happen.” He also wrote that the results are “another headache for Brussels because now it will have to come to terms with not only “the newcomers” from Hungary and Poland, but also with the Italian giant. And this is a serious challenge.” Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said he had no doubt that “given the election’s outcome, Russian-Italian relations will evolve constructively. Members of the coalition, as well as the Five Star Movement, which came second, call for strengthening the partnership with Russia and removing the European Union’s illegal sanctions from our country.”

Survey: Three Quarters of Germans Say Islam Does Not ‘Belong’ in Germany

Three quarters of Germans said that Islam does not belong in Germany, according to a new poll, in direct opposition to comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Klimkin urges EU to impose sanctions against Schroeder as Putin’s lobbyist | UNIAN

One of Schroeder’s last acts before being turned out of office in 2005 was authorizing Nord Stream.

Brexit could damage UK aerospace says report

Tougher border checks are priced at $2.1 billion extra a year.

Poland’s Misunderstood Holocaust Law – Foreign Policy

My government wants to ban accusations of Polish wartime complicity for the sake of honoring history.

Sarkozy placed under formal investigation for illegal campaign financing in Libya probe – France 24

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was placed under formal investigation Wednesday evening after two days of questioning over allegations that late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi illegally helped finance his 2007 campaign.

French Ex-President Questioned On Claims He Took Funds From Gadhafi : The Two-Way : NPR

French officials have been investigating claims that former President Nicolas Sarkozy took 50 million euros from the Libyan regime to fund his successful 2007 presidential bid.

Night Wolves Biker Club Kicks Off ‘Russian Balkan’ Tour

The Russian motorcycle club the Night Wolves kicked off what they call their “Russian Balkans” tour with a visit to the Serbian town of Sid on March 20.

Putin’s Pals, The Night Wolves, Troll Bosnia And The Region

Is motorcycle club whose members were at the vanguard of Russia’s occupation of Crimea out to ensure an “ethnically fragmented basket case in the heart of the Balkans”? (The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL.)

Pro-Putin Biker Group Visits Republika Srpska On ‘Russian Balkans’ Tour

Nearly two dozen members of the pro-Kremlin motorcycle group Night Wolves have visited Banja Luka, the administrative center of Bosnia’s predominantly Serb entity, Republika Srpska, as part of what…

Is Bosnia the next Ukraine? | Russia News | Al Jazeera

Authorities are worried the Night Wolves are pushing for a separatist movement among Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia Is Teetering on the Precipice of a Political Crisis – Foreign Policy

 

Russian Whistle-Blower Linked To Slain Maltese Journalist Turns Self In

A Russian whistle-blower linked to slain Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has handed herself in to the police in Greece, saying she feared for her life.

Russia Undercuts US Sanctions With Venezuelan Cryptocurrency | Time

A TIME investigation finds Moscow’s fingerprints all over the petro, the world’s first state-backed digital currency

‘We’re Losing the Fight’: Tuberculosis Batters a Venezuela in Crisis – The New York Times

The disease, which until recently seemed to be under control in Venezuela, is making an aggressive comeback in the nation, overwhelming its broken health care system.

White House Bans Venezuela’s Digital Currency and Expands Sanctions – The New York Times

The Trump administration also blacklisted four associates of President Nicolás Maduro, pressuring a government it has accused of graft and repression.

Europe Still Doesn’t Take Its Own Defense Seriously | The National Interest Blog

Berlin plans to leave the defending to Washington—as do most of NATO’s other members.

US Domestic Policy Reports

Donald J. Trump on Twitter: “I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9.”

 

On The Record: John Bolton, Trump’s New Pick For National Security Adviser

U.S. President Donald Trump’s choice for his new national security adviser, John Bolton, holds foreign policy views that in the past have clashed with those of his soon-to-be boss. Here’s a look at what Bolton has said on a range of issues, including Russia, Iran, and Syria.

Trump Names Bolton, A Hawk On Iran And North Korea, As Top Security Adviser

U.S. President Donald Trump is replacing national security adviser H.R. McMaster with former UN Ambassador John Bolton, an outspoken hawk who has advocated using military force against Iran and Nor…

  1. Korea Experts Tear Into Bolton: ‘He’s Never Met A Country He Hasn’t Wanted To Destroy’

The shake-up also comes just two weeks after Trump accepted an invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un.

John Bolton | The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First – WSJ

Does the necessity of self-defense leave ‘no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation’?

What to expect from John Bolton at the White House

It’s unclear whether Bolton’s hawkish views will transfer into reality in office.

What John Bolton’s Appointment as National Security Adviser Means – Defense One

Until today, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster was considered Trump\’s most militant adviser on North Korea.

Trump replaces McMaster with Bolton as national security adviser | TheHill

Bolton Brings Hawkish Perspective To North Korea, Iran Strategy : NPR

Bolton takes the job as two major foreign policy challenges come to a head, in North Korea and Iran. He replaces H.R. McMaster, becoming the third man to hold the position under President Trump.

What John Bolton’s Appointment as National-Security Adviser Means – The Atlantic

Trump is replacing his national-security adviser with John Bolton, a persistent advocate of military intervention.

McMaster to Resign as National Security Adviser, and Will Be Replaced by John Bolton – The New York Times

Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster struggled to impose order on a fractious national security team and a president resistant to his sort of military discipline.

Breedlove: Russian election meddling ‘a form of warfare’ – News – Stripes

Retired Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove told the House Armed Services Committee that Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was deeply troubling, though it’s not surprising in light of their long interest in disinformation campaigns.

The Russians are here. Why don’t Americans care? (opinion) – CNN

When it comes to Russia’s aggression, America is talking loudly and carrying a small stick, a weak position that won’t serve our long-term security, says Sharon Burke.

New Peter Schweizer Book Reveals Biden and Kerry Corruption in China, Even Undercutting U.S. Nuclear and Military Technologies

As Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry went soft on China regarding the country’s aggression in the South China Sea, their sons Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz grew rich abetting China’s theft of U.S. nuclear secrets and partnering with Chinese government companies.

The misleading appeal of the Grand Theory of Russia Collusion – The Washington Post

Bannon plus Cambridge Analytica is like cat plus nip for conspiracy theorists.

Trump furious over leak of warning to not congratulate Putin – CNNPolitics

President Donald Trump was infuriated after it quickly leaked that he had been directly instructed by his national security advisers in briefing materials not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his recent election victory during their call Tuesday morning, a source familiar with the President’s thinking said.

Ex-Chief of C.I.A. Suggests Putin May Have Compromising Information on Trump – The New York Times

John O. Brennan said Russia may have compromising information on President Trump, setting off furious speculation about whether the former spy chief was basing that assertion on inside information.

Why Is Trump So Afraid of Russia? – The New York Times

Nary a bad word about Vladimir Putin can the U.S. president find.

Tweets About “Do Not Congratulate” Are Roasting Donald Trump’s Call With Putin

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Russian President Vladmir Putin reclaimed the presidency during the March 18 elections in a landslide “victory.” But considering heightened tensions with Russia (not to mention the sketchiness around Putin’s elec…

U.S. Senators Warn Of More Russian Hacking Attempts Against Voting Systems

Leading U.S. senators said Russian-linked hackers succeeded in penetrating the voting system in at least one U.S. state in 2016, as lawmakers called for new efforts to protect those U.S. election systems from hacking.

The Next Russian Attack Will Be Far Worse than Bots and Trolls – Lawfare

An all-out attack on Western critical infrastructure seems inevitable. On March 15, the Department of Homeland Security together with the FBI announced that Russian government hackers infiltrated critical infrastructures in the U.S.—including “energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.” According to the DHS-FBI report, malicious Russian activities have been ongoing since at least March 2016. The Russian malware, which has been sitting in the control systems of various U.S. utilities, allows the Russians to shut off power or sabotage the energy grids. And they have done it before: The same malware that took down Ukraine’s electrical grid in 2015 and 2016 has been detected in U.S. utilities. The potential damage of a nationwide black out—let’s say on Election Day—would be significant, to say the least. And while Russian trolls and bots have captured public attention, they are already yesterday’s game. As I write in a recent Brookings paper, the future of political warfare is in the cyber domain. The disinformation tools used by Moscow against the West are still fairly basic: They rely on exploiting human gullibility, vulnerabilities in the social media ecosystem, and lack of awareness among the public, the media, and policymakers. In the very near term, however, technological advancements in artificial intelligence and cyber capabilities will open opportunities for malicious actors to undermine democracies more covertly and effectively than what we have seen so far. Increasingly sophisticated cybertools, tested primarily in Ukraine, have already infected Western systems, as evidenced by the DHS-FBI report. An all-out attack on Western critical infrastructure seems inevitable.

Senate Intel Unveils First Findings on Russia Election Meddling

 

Trump talks to Putin following Russian leader’s landslide re-election

The call between Trump and Putin comes as the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election intensifies.

Alex Jones perpetuated conspiracy theories. Now he’s being sued. – Vox

Alex Jones, the Last Vegas shooting, and Charlottesville conspiracy theories, explained.

Russia Criticizes U.S. Global Missile Shield in Japan, Where World War II Is Not Over for Moscow

Japan’s claims to islands seized by Soviet forces in World War II and installation of U.S. missile defense has troubled relations with Russia.

Here’s what US should do if Russia launched nuclear attack: Gen. Hyten

Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, would hold off on launching nukes.

Interview: Senate Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chair Deb Fischer on Russia, space wars, and the state of the nuclear arsenal

Fischer oversees a national security portfolio that includes America’s nuclear arsenal, ballistic missile defense, national security space programs, and Department of Energy national security programs.

Air Force in Crisis, Part III: Dear Boss, It’s All About the Culture

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” –Peter Drucker The methodology a fighter pilot uses to debrief after a mission is simple yet effective: What happened, why did it happen, and how do you fix it? Every good fighter pilot knows that the most important part is identifying why the problem happened in the first place.

To deter Russia, US needs new low-yield nukes, says STRATCOM head

A proposal to develop a low-yield warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles could face scrutiny by Democrats.

Mattis Has Some Questions To Answer About The Theranos Fraud Case

One of Silicon Valley’s biggest darlings just settled SEC charges that her startup was overinflated to investors. And Mattis went to bat for her.

 

Advertisements