Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
Russian campaign of expulsions, bluster and bluff continues, punctuated by some nuclear saber rattling – the launch of a prototype Sarmat / SATAN 2 ICBM. Russians escalate by demanding that an additional 50 UK consular staff depart Russia. Some tasteless if not mocking commentary from Sputnik on Ms Skripal, while the UK Embassy demands consular access.
A superb appreciation of the Putin regime’s compound blunder with its capstone in the attack on the Skripals, and subsequent political blundering, by Dr Liliya Shevtsova at Chatham House (formerly Brookings). Full text from RFE/RL translated below. What we are seeing, of course are the self-inflicted “Black Swans” described recently by Rabinovich. The Putin regime set out to create chaos on a vast scale, but chaos by its very nature is highly unpredictable, and characterised by extreme departures from the norm, that may or may not be recoverable.
Amb Grigory Logvinov in Canberra has become a media hit – of sorts.
Multiple reports on the US political pivot on Russia, and ongoing UK measures.
No updates on the condition of Col. Skripal and Yulia.
Novaya Gazeta on the use of Novichok for organized crime murders during the 1990s, procured illicitly from government labs. A speculative report claiming Mossad assassinated a leading Russian scientist on this program. Media report Lesin death believed by Bureau to be another hit.
Expelling Diplomats, a Furious Kremlin Escalates a Crisis – The New York Times
The move was in retaliation for the expulsion of diplomats by Britain, the United States and their allies. The U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg will be closed.
Moscow orders the UK to cut more Russian staff as it hits back at more than 20 countries.
Russian Foreign Ministry: 50 more British diplomats must leave. Russia and Britain have been expelling each other’s diplomats in a row over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
Russia ordered deeper cuts to the number of British diplomats in the country on Friday, further escalating the already bitter standoff between Moscow and the West.
UK-Russia Standoff Deepens as Moscow Cuts UK Diplomats
The Kremlin showed little sign of backing away from confrontation as it outlined its response to international sanctions taken over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
Russia expelled diplomats from at least 19 countries that threw out Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK over the poisoning of a former Russian spy.
Russia is expelling 150 Western diplomats from Moscow as the row over the poisoning of spy Sergei Skripal continues. The US consulate in St Petersburg will be closed while London…
Avoiding another Cold War may require Moscow to change course.
A procession of envoys passed through the Foreign Ministry in the latest twist over the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain.
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All of the 60 Russians expelled by the United States this week were undeclared “spies” pretending to be diplomats, a senior administration official told reporters on Thursday, saying the Russians were unwelcome — “persona non grata.”
Oleg Zhiganov and Aleksander Stadnik are the first two Russian alleged “spies” to be identified amongst the 60 individuals the US Government expelled, Fox News has been able to confirm.
The spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Britain must reduce its diplomatic personnel in Russia by more than 50 people amid a diplomatic tit-for-tat ignited by the poisoning of an ex-spy …
Russia has demanded the right to see the daughter of its former spy after the British authorities confirmed that the condition of Yulia Skripal in hospital had rapidly improved.The Russians claimed they had a right to visit Ms Skripal under international law but the Foreign Office insisted that ….
In an interview with Sputnik, Alexander Mikhailov, a member of Russia’s Foreign and Defense Policy Council, has rejected allegations that Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent at the front door of his home in the British town of Salisbury.
Yulia Skripal has risen from her death bed and looks like she will make a full recovery from the “deadly nerve gas attack.”
RUSSIA has threatened to stop and search all UK inbound flights to Moscow and St Petersburg after a Russian plane was searched by UK authorities yesterday.
Russia has demanded an explanation from British authorities over their search of an Aeroflot plane at London’s Heathrow airport.
The Russian embassy in Britain said that British authorities had searched an Aeroflot plane at London’s Heathrow airport on Friday.
Moscow has told Britain it must cut “just over 50” more of its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia in a worsening standoff over the poisoning of a Russian former spy and his daughter in England, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned the heads of diplomatic missions from 23 countries to say how many of their officials are to leave Moscow following the UK spy poisoning. Four German diplomats are to go home.
An Irish diplomat was yesterday ordered to leave Russia in retaliation to Ireland’s decision to participate in expulsions from EU countries. The official was given ten days to return to Dublin as relations soured between the two countries after the Salisbury nerve agent attack in the UK. A spok
Paul Goble Staunton, March 30 – In his effort to extend his time in office and thus his life, Vladimir Putin has undercut the three foundations on which his power has rested up to now: the basis of his legitimacy as president, the balance of forces in the world, and the rules of the game both internationally and domestically, Lidiya Shevtsova says. In a commentary for Radio Svoboda today, the prominent Russian political analyst said that politicians always try to remain in office and dictators try to do so forever, not only to satisfy their ambitions as leaders but to ensure that their lives will not be at risk as they might be if they left office (https://www.svoboda.org/a/29120086.html). But it sometimes happens, Shevtsova says, that in attempting to extend their time in power, they take steps which undermine the principles on which they have relied for their power in the first place. That is what has happened in the case of Vladimir Putin over the last several years. That became especially clear during the recent campaign when “the Kremlin was forced to undermine the basic principles of the existence of the Russian state,” the analyst continues. In its course, “the Kremlin demolished three principles which had been guaranteeing the functioning of the state.” First, it undermined the basis of the legitimacy of the president and his system. Putin’s team understands the need for some legitimation otherwise it would have to rely exclusively on repression, “and it is unclear to what extent society would agree with that.” But a plebiscite without a choice doesn’t legitimate its victor, especially when society has ceased to be sealed off from the world. As a result, Shevtsova says, “Putin had to search for an additional source or support,” and he did so by “creating the myth of a foreign threat and then presenting himself to the countrya s the Leader-Defender of the Motherland.” That he did so shows that his legitimation via the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea has “exhausted itself.” Putin’s “plebiscitory-militarist legitimation” could have “two consequences.” On the one hand, “the preservation of power via the manipulation of the electoral process (which he has done before) discredits the electoral mechanism of the formation of power. And on the other, shifting to a military model “contradicts the requirements of the state.” That state, the Russian analyst says, “is interested in integration into the world system not only because of the requirements of the economy but also for Russia’s retention of the status of a power.” If Russia becomes an outcast or is ignored by others, as Putin himself has acknowledged, that does not legitimate Putin’s power. Consequently, the Kremlin leader had to offer Russia “convincing arguments for the retention of power: either victory in the clash with the West or ‘the defense of the Motherland.’” Because of the West’s response, Putin has been forced to choose the second option, hoping that the West will give way and make concessions to his position. But he and his comrades in arms can’t possibly believe that “the West will agree to save the reputation of the Kremlin by sacrificing its own.” And they must also know that “’the besieged fortress’” tactic “will have only a short-term effect. The Russian elite wants to have the benefits only the West can provide and “it’s doubtful” the population is ready for the sacrifice a war would require. Indeed, as has become ever more obvious in recent weeks, “it is not NATO and Western actions but events in Volokolamsk and the tragedy in Kemerovo which have delivered a blow to the new presidency by demonstrating the cynicism and lack of humanity of the Russian powers that be.” Second, in his drive to try to save his position in power, Putin has rejected “the principle of the balance of forces in world politics.” Russia lacks the resources to be a power of the size Putin imagines and wants it to be. And so he has engaged in threats and blackmail to try to force others to bend to his will. The result has been tragic – first of all for him and his country. “Hardly ever in modern times has Russia been in such isolation as it is now” when even its supposed allies like Kazakhstan and Belarus are distancing themselves from Moscow lest they run afoul of the far more powerful West. And third, Shevtsova continues, Putin has demanded recognition of the right of the Kremlin to “freely interpret rules and agreements both within the country and on the international scene.” As a result, Russians live in a Darwinian and Hobbesian world where “there is no guarantee of property, freedom or security. In foreign affairs, she continues, “the Kremlin has decided to play the role of an anarchist destroying taboos and declaring what its understanding of sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference, and democracy are,” however much at odds these notions are from those of the international community. Apparently, some in Putin’s entourage think that the West is prepared to play “’Russian roulette’” with Moscow and even take the hand that Putin has extended. But reality shows that “the Kremlin has miscalculated.” Instead of disordering the West, it has brought it much more closely together than anyone could have imagined a few years ago. And consequently, she concludes, “the Putin corporation has driven itself into a dead end.” The Kremlin is now in conflict both with the most developed countries and with that part of Russian society now demanding change, while simultaneously undermining the possibility of the survival of the Russian rentier class that has been his base.
Australia says Russia is expelling two of its diplomats and is calling Moscow’s action “disappointing.”.
AUSTRALIA’S ambassador in Moscow has appeared before Russia’s foreign ministry, which is confronting nations that took “unfriendly steps”.
Russia’s Ambassador to Australia, Grigory Logvinov, obfuscated, denied, misled and mocked his way through a blizzard of questions for 55 minutes and 21 seconds on Wednesday.
Stand down Sean Spicer. There’s a new prince of PR in town, and he’s right here at the Russian embassy in Canberra.
Moscow has released video of its latest Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile – dubbed ‘Satan’ by NATO – being test launched.
A new intercontinental ballistic missile hailed by Russian President Vladimir Putin as being able to fly over the North or South Poles and strike any target in the world reportedly was test-launched for the second time Friday.
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
Some top Trump administration officials have been pushing for stricter actions toward Russia in recent weeks amid escalating diplomatic tensions between the two countries, The New York Times reported Friday. Senior officials have been actively considering additional sanctions and measures to take against Moscow, according to the report, following Russia’s move this week to remove 60 American diplomats and close the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. The Times reports that in the days leading up to his exit from the Trump administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson found some acceptance in the White House for adopting a tougher stance toward Russia.
As diplomats pack their bags, some senior American officials are pressing for a more aggressive approach, but President Trump remains unconvinced.
The president’s lingering insecurity about his legitimacy might explain his willingness to punish the Kremlin for a poisoning in London but not for meddling in the 2016 election.
Expelling Russian spies is a good policy; Trump should defend it
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin called nonsense Russia’s latest decision to expel Ukrainian diplomats in a “mirror act” after Ukraine kicked out Russian diplomats in an international response to a poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on British soil. The Foreign Minister stressed that Ukraine retains capacity to protect Ukrainians staying in the Russian Federation.
Russia expels 13 Russian diplomats from Ukraine, mostly from the Embassy in Moscow, 5 from the Consulate in Rostov, and from the cities where most of the trials of Ukrainian political prisoner are held. Iryna Herashchenko, the Chairman of Verkhovna Rada, wrote on Facebook. “Russia, by tradition, is acting meanly and painful. They expel 13 of our diplomats mostly from the Embassy in Moscow and 5 diplomats from our Consulate in Rostov as a reaction to the expulsion of 13 Russian diplomats doing some precarious business in Ukraine. Most trials of Ukrainian political prisoners take place there (in Rostov,- ed.),” she wrote. According to her, the relatives of the political prisoners are worried whether the Ukrainian Consulate could work properly and protect Ukrainian citizens. “Yes, the stress and the pressure on our consuls, who stay to work in the Mordor will increase, but they realize the responsibility they bear and their noble mission. They will perform their duties in full, strive for the access to the prison, they will also be present at the court,” Herashchenko stated. Meanwhile, in her opinion, a department to support hostages’ relatives and political prisoners should be set in the Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs. “As the President’s Envoy, I intend to appeal to all of the EU and G7 states with a request for being present at the trials of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars – in Moscow, Rostov, wherever this farce is going on. This will be a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine, which supports Britain and the world,” Herashchenko stated. She added that unlike the Ukrainian consuls, Russian consuls do not concern about lives of “ihtamnets” (a soldier, a representative of Russian Armed Forces, who conduct a Hybrid war on the territory of another state -, ed.) “Russian consul visited Aheyev, who liberal Nezavisimaya Gazeta was crying about, one time, some of 20 convicted Russians – not even once,” the deputy informed. Earlier, Russia declared 13 Ukrainian diplomats personae non gratae on March 30. This was a reaction to the expulsion of 13 Russian diplomats from Ukraine due to the Skripal’s case. 23 states were involved in the responsive measures taken by Russia. The USA announced its decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats on March 26 due to the Skripal’s case. 28 states took same measures afterwards.
It’s time to part with illusions. Otherwise, the United States cannot develop and execute a sustainable policy towards Russia.
Diplomatic expulsions have left Russia and the West with little capacity for more such largely symbolic measures, setting the stage for less predictable forms of escalation, Russian government advisers and analysts say.
After expulsions of diplomats from 23 countries were announced, high-level discussions will go on. But life will be harder for Westerners in Russia.
Diplomatic expulsions are just age-old political theater, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Tensions rise as the West and Russia trade insults and expulsions. But the old Cold War restraints and channels of communication have been dismantled.
Why won’t Austria — and its pro-Russia, far-right foreign ministry — punish Vladimir Putin? The real answer isn’t the obvious one.
Russia claims UK officials have searched an Aeroflot plane and threatens retaliation if it does not get an explanation.
The 33-year-old is understood to be conscious and talking in hospital after being poisoned in Salisbury.
Russia has demanded the right to see the daughter of its former spy after the British authorities confirmed that the condition of Yulia Skripal in hospital had rapidly improved.The Russians claimed they had a right to visit Ms Skripal under international law but the Foreign Office insisted that i
A children’s play area near Sergei Skripal’s home has been cordoned off by police investigating a nerve agent attack on the former Russian spy. The Metropolitan Police said the operation in Montgomery Gardens was a “precautionary measure”. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon said: “I would like to reassure residents that we have placed the cordons around the park, and officers will be searching it, as a precautionary measure.
- Former British spy Christopher Steele gave the FBI a report that claims the 2015 death of a Russian media czar in Washington, DC was the result of a deadly beating by Russian state security officers.
- The death had previously been ruled an accident by police investigators.
- The victim, Mikhail Lesin, founded the state-funded pro-Russia network RT.
- The alleged murder took place days before Lesin was supposed to meet with Justice Department investigators.
From a distinguished expert friend: Novichok was sold to organized crime in the 1990s by Russian scientists, according to Novaya Gazeta. Novichok was allegedly used to murder Ivan Kivelidi in 1995. Criminal file No. 238709. </end editorial> (Translated from Czech by my Chrome browser) Eat in the telephone handset in Moscow. The novelist sold the gang…
Experts believe a Russian general by the name of Anatoly Kuntsevich invented the nerve agent that Russia used to poison former spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom, triggering an international crisis.. Read more at straitstimes.com.
Shoot the state in the head. Lilia Shevtsova – about the entrapment
30 March 2018
The desire of those who have power to preserve it naturally, even in developed democracies. For personalistic boards, extending power to infinity is not a matter of the habits or ambitions of their leaders, but the guarantee of their lives. But sometimes the reproduction of personal power turns into destructive consequences not only for the object of ruling, but also for the system of state administration.
In the name of Vladimir Putin’s re-assertion as president, the Kremlin is forced to undermine the basic principles of the Russian state’s life. The ruling corporation, which has subjugated the autocracy, is trying to survive, increasing its degradation and provoking chaos and lawlessness. Perhaps we see a sign of desperation of the Kremlin team that has exhausted its previous arguments, or, conversely, its self-confidence (everything will do!) Or its inadequacy and inability to calculate the consequences of its actions. Be that as it may, the Kremlin dismantles the three principles that guarantee the functioning of the state: the legitimacy of power; the balance of power in Russia’s relations with the outside world; the principle of compliance with the rules and arrangements within and outside the country.
Of course, the Kremlin understands the need for legitimization on the part of society, that is, the recognition of power by the people and the willingness to obey it. After all, otherwise it will be necessary to rule through repression and it is unclear to what extent society will agree with this. But the whole point is that the legitimization of power through a plebiscite in the absence of choice is short-lived – especially for a country that has ceased to be airtight, for a country that begins to muffle. Therefore, Vladimir Putin had to look for an additional source of support, pushing Russia into wartime – creating a myth about the external threat and offering himself to the country as the Leader-Defender of the Motherland. This fact itself shows that the legitimization of Putin’s leadership through the image of the “collector of Russian lands” and the use of the annexation of the Crimea as a mobilizing idea is exhausting itself.
The plebiscitary-militaristic legitimization of the rule of Vladimir Putin can have two consequences. First, the preservation of power through manipulation of the electoral process (and not for the first time) discredits the elective mechanism for the formation of power. There is no need for much imagination to conclude what other path remains for the society to change power when it becomes unbearable.
Secondly, the survival of the political regime through the transfer of the country to a military track contradicts the needs of the state, which is interested in integrating into the world system not only for the sake of the economy’s needs, but also for retaining Russia’s status of statehood. How can you be a power without a dialogue with the world’s leading players? Yes, the president has been trying to “not aggravate” for a couple of years, suggesting that the West return to the Dokrym status quo, which, however, required liberal democracies to adopt Kremlin rules of the game. As Putin himself admitted, the Kremlin was not heard. But many times I had to swallow humiliation – and the escalating sanctions, and the doping scandal, and the anti-Russian consolidation of the United States, and the destruction of Russian mercenaries in Syria.
Does Moscow believe that the West will agree to save the Kremlin’s reputation by losing its own?
The approaching elections demanded that Putin offer Russia convincing grounds for preserving power: either a victory in a clash with the West, or “defense of the Motherland.” Since the West did not want to agree with the Russian vision of the world order and even pretend that it is seeking a compromise, the Kremlin had to choose the second scenario. Putin was forced to wear the Terminator mask and shock the world with his “missile manifesto,” apparently hoping that the nervous-looking Western elite would return to the game of give-away. But is it really believed in Moscow that the West will agree to save the Kremlin’s reputation by losing its own? The transformation of Russia into a “besieged fortress” will inevitably have a short-term effect. The elite, integrated into Western life, is unlikely to find it tempting to live after a serf moat. It is doubtful, that society is ready for real self-sacrifice in the name of a new war with the West. Meanwhile, legitimacy, pumped up by militarism and hatred of the world around, instantly falls apart when people face the inability of the authorities to protect their lives and the lives of their children. Not NATO and not Western intrigues, but the events in Volokolamsk and the tragedy in Kemerovo were a blow to the new presidency, demonstrating the cynicism and inhumanity of the Russian government.
Another innovation is the rejection of the principle of the balance of power in world politics. If this principle is followed, Russia’s power and economic potential does not give it the right to be a great power and an equal member of the world’s “concert.” Not being ready to downgrade, the Russian government has replaced the principle of balance of power for a willingness to escalate risks and blackmailing the threat of beating windows in order to obtain the desired result. This tactic can bring short-term successes (as in Syria), but threatens with a deafening strategic defeat. It is unlikely that ever in modern times Russia was in isolation, like today, when even faithful allies would have floundered from it. More recently, the super-loyal Nursultan Nazarbayev has gone to establish a dialogue in Washington – he has found the time! And Alexander Lukashenko has long been looking to Europe and is cooperating with Kiev.
Finally, another invention of Kremlin strategists is the requirement to recognize the Kremlin’s right to freely interpret rules and agreements both domestically and internationally. However, inside the country we have been living in the Darwinian world for a long time, when the rules were dropped, and obligations (including from the state) became anachronistic: there are no guarantees of property, no guarantees of freedom, no guarantees of security. That’s also in foreign policy, the Kremlin decided to play the role of anarchist, destroying taboos and declaring their understanding of what sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference, democracy is, and at the same time pretending to a new interpretation of international treaties. Finding no other justification for preserving power, the Kremlin offers an axiom: the more fearless you destroy rules and the world is frightened, the higher your legitimacy!
It is not clear, however, this: is the ruling corporation hoping that the elite and society will agree to play with the West in “Russian roulette”? Or does he think that the West will back down and take the hand stretched out by Putin? So far, reality says that the Kremlin was wrong, hoping for a weak character of Western democracies. The strategy of intimidation proved to be an effective means of revitalizing the extinct tone of the West and its consolidation on an anti-Russian basis. Let the Western machine turn slowly, but it already bristled. The mass expulsion of Russian diplomats from Western countries in solidarity with Britain, accusing Moscow of a “gas attack” on its territory, is a warning that the patience of Western capitals has been exhausted. Hoping that the West will agree to play with Moscow in the game, which will nourish the pride of its leader and simultaneously feed the Russian kleptocracy? What naivety!
The Putin corporation has driven itself into a trap. The Kremlin not only entered into conflict with the most developed civilization but with a part of the Russian society that requires change. The Kremlin began to undermine the survival mechanism of the state system, which allowed the Russian class of rentiers to survive due to its integration in the West while providing Russia with a financial and technological resource. It was necessary to try very hard to make it impossible – both changes and the status quo!
Lilia Shevtsova – political expert
The opinions expressed in the “Author’s right” section may not correspond to the point of view of the editorial board