Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
Russians continue nonsensical claims about Whelan. The Nord Stream 2 game may be unraveling – hopefully. Excellent commentary on unilateral disarmament by Huessy. Four digests on Russia’s continuing descent. More Russian propaganda on Trident Juncture EX. Skripal residence teardown for decontamination.
USN deploys LSD to the Black Sea for exercises, and a Dutch FFG will shortly also deploy. Updates on Azov and Crimea.
In Donbas, Christmas ceasefire violations by Russia continue. Suspected Russian RPV jammed near AFU arms storage depot. SBU stats on foreign covert operators detained in 2018. More on Russian propaganda.
AFU to deploy Canadian LRT-3 Sniper Weapon System. Polish / Ukrainian ALAMO-GL SAM system now designated the Wicher ET/EA/PEP (tornado or whirlwind) and rehosted on a credible VL TEL. Multiple industry updates.
Updates on politics, economy, and culture. Most interesting is the rebuttal by Ukraine’s Amb to Prague, dealing with a nonsensical pro-Russian statement by former Czech Pres Klaus.
Russia has rejected a British suggestion that it might use a former U.S. Marine detained last month in Russia on espionage charges as a pawn in a diplomatic game, saying that Moscow reserves the ri…
Paul Whelan was identified initially as an American citizen when he was arrested late last month. However last week, news reports discovered that he also held Canadian, British, and Irish citizenship.
The brother of a U.S. Marine veteran who was arrested Russia on accusations of espionage said Monday that his sibling exhibited no signs of being a spy.
The brother of the American detained in Moscow on suspicion of spying spoke to Fox News Monday afternoon about the surreal case of his twin brother, from detainment in a notorious Russian prison to the reasons behind his passports from four countries.
Of course, Russia responds to pressure to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Trump’s Threats Cannot Stop Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Project – Oettinger Sputnik A typical Russian propaganda response – ‘it cannot be stopped’, ‘it is a force of nature’, and the implication ‘we are unstoppable!’ That appears to come straight out of…
By inflicting secondary sanctions on smaller European companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, the U.S. could seriously undermine the controversial project. After all, it worked with Iran. There is plenty of debate on the controversial nature of the pipeline project in Europe and inside Germany itself. By inflicting secondary sanctions on smaller European companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, the U.S. could seriously undermine the controversial project. After all, it worked with Iran. Companies working on the Nord Stream-2 pipeline “are always in danger, because sanctions are always possible,” U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told Handelsblatt. The ambassador, who, unlike most career diplomats, doesn’t shy away from controversy, is hinting that the U.S. could use what are known as extraterritorial sanctions – that is, secondary sanctions that do not directly target an unfriendly nation but which are aimed at other countries a little too friendly with the unfriendly nation. In the case of Nord Stream 2, these are countries like Germany. However Grenell may just be rattling his sabers: He also said he was sure that the involved companies would pull out of the project, of their own accord, when confronted with the threat of sanctions.
In the coming clash between President Trump’s $750 billion defense budget and House Democrats’ desire to cut Pentagon spending, especially on nuclear weapons, there will be tremendous fiscal pressure to shortchange the almost $30 billion annual cost to modernize America’s strategic deterrent. The ideological cover for such penny-wise, pound-foolish cuts is the so-called Global Zero movement to eliminate all nuclear weapons. But in reality, the global-zero idealists practice a dangerous double standard: They push the US to unilaterally cut its nuclear arsenal even as they ignore or excuse nuclear buildups by Russia, China, North Korea, and (under the table) Iran. Even if they were consistent, their pursuit of zero nuclear weapons would still make no sense when none of the nine existing nuclear powers has any interest in completely disarming. To deny the need for a strong American deterrent requires somehow handwaving away the existence of at least nine nuclear arsenals, at least three of them in hands hostile to the United States. This is not strategy: It is fantasy. Lessons From Reagan Instead of chasing the phantom of universal disarmament, we should look to President Reagan, whose strategy of “peace through strength” balanced nuclear reductions with nuclear modernization, securing sufficient public and Congressional support to simultaneously shrink and modernize the nuclear force. At the time, the disarmament community was pushing a nuclear freeze, under which neither the US nor the USSR would introduce new nuclear weapons – freezing in place a Soviet advantage. The Soviets proposed the idea in the first place because they had fully modernized their nuclear forces while the United States had not. The current administration is facing a similar dilemma. Just as when Ronald Reagan became President, our nuclear forces are now aging and in dire need of modernization. But instead of a push for a nuclear freeze, the disarmament community is now pursuing the chimerical objective of banning all nuclear weapons through an international treaty sponsored by the United Nations. To get there, the disarmament supporters are pushing major unilateral US nuclear reductions while simultaneously soft-pedaling Russia violations of existing nuclear treaties such as INF, ignoring China’s low-profile but robust nuclear buildup, excusing North Korea’s rapid expansion of its new arsenal, imputing innocent intentions to Iran’s persistent pursuit of nuclear energy, and extending for five more years the 2010 New Start treaty warhead ceilings. Here the disarmament community suffers from a certain degree of schizophrenia. The unilateral US nuclear reductions sought by the disarmers are not required by the 2010 New START nuclear agreement extension between the United States and Russia. Extending New START would also not necessarily require Russia to comply with the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, which Moscow has gravely violated with a new cruise missile – and from which President Trump has officially declared his intention to withdraw. Russia is not the only beneficiary of this blind-eye approach to global zero. A striking feature of the disarmament community’s analysis of North Korea is its open contempt for the American administration’s push for complete and irreversible de-nuclearization. Almost in unison, the disarmament advocates justify the North’s refusal to implement its promise of nuclear disarmament by just like North Korea blaming America for a “hostile” policy toward North Korea. Is the United States really an imminent threat to the existence of the Kim dynasty and its corrupt regime? Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, North Korea has engaged in multiple military and terror attacks against the United States and its allies, from hijacking the USS Pueblo in 1968, to killing nearly the entire South Korean cabinet during its state visit to Burma in 1983, to sinking the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010. Yet despite these multiple military and terror attacks against the United States and the Republic of Korea, since the end of the Korean War in 1953 the US has not once used military force against the North. How then can the United States be blamed for terrifying the North into its rapid nuclear buildup? As for Iran, despite Iranian complicity in numerous deadly terrorist attacks against the United States, the disarmament advocates support a deeply flawed agreement with Iran called the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action or (JCPOA). The deal would at best pause Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but allow Iran to pursue, in the words of former CIA Director General Michael Hayden, an “industrial strength nuclear weapons program” with a full-up nuclear fuel cycle capability. Like North Korea, Iran is using the very talking points used by the American disarmament advocates, including the threat that it will rapidly develop nuclear weapons now unless the United States acquiesces in the JCPOA — which allows Iran to develop nuclear weapons later! This ignores how Iran continues to refuse inspections of military and suspect nuclear sites by the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Administration as required by the JCPOA. Thus, despite rhetorical support for zero nuclear weapons, the disarmament community provides ideological cover for North Korea keep its nuclear weapons now and for Iran to pursue nuclear weapons in the longer term. But global zero and nuclear nonproliferation are hardly advanced by arguments that North Korea is justified in having nuclear weapons now and Iran later. Apparently, the only nuclear power that should reduce its weapons today is the United States, and we have to do so unilaterally and significantly. Against Unilateral Disarmament For example, the disarmament folks are pushing for unilateral cuts in American long range strategic nuclear weapons by upwards of 70 percent, even though the weapons we now have in our arsenal are legally allowed by the 2010 New START treaty between the USA and Russia. These proposed cuts would eliminate all 400 of our land-based ICBMs, prohibit all our long-range bombers from having a nuclear capability, and cut our planned fleet of twelve Columbia-class nuclear-armed submarines to as few as six. The new House Armed Services chairman, Adam Smith, has proposed the United States keep only as many warheads as deployed by the People’s Republic of China. That means the American nuclear force structure might end up with only 300 warheads, some 80 percent less than we are allowed under the 2010 New Start treaty, although China’s secrecy and nuclear buildup make it hard to know their real deployed number. How ironic that while international law denies North Korea and Iran the right to have nuclear weapons, the disarmament community is not demanding these rogue regimes abide by the existing law, but instead wants to pass a new law banning such weapons worldwide. At the same time, while North Korea and Iran get off the legal hook, the disarmament community is making an all-out effort to curtail and block the modernization of America’s nuclear deterrent. Meanwhile, many deterrence professionals are seriously concerned that the Russians are not only violating the 1987 INF treaty but also the 2010 New Start treaty. It would just be one more instance of their continued and blatant violation of at least seven additional security agreements and treaties they have signed with the United States. Almost forgotten in the nuclear debate is the goal of making more transparent the entire Chinese nuclear enterprise as well as highlighting the Chinese nuclear proliferation history. As Tom Reed, President Reagan’s deputy national security adviser writes in The Nuclear Express, China made an explicit decision in 1982 to export nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan directly and indirectly to Iran, Libya, North Korea and Iraq largely through the creation of what I have referred to as the Pakistani “Nukes ‘R Us” A.Q. Khan nuclear network. In short, the disarmament community supports Russia, China, and North Korea keeping, and Iran pursuing, nuclear weapons that will make any aggression on their parts much harder to deter. Meanwhile the USA must dismantle huge swaths of its nuclear arsenal, which is internationally recognized as keeping the peace. It is not just the objectives of the disarmament community that are concerning here: It is the entire thought process on which these objectives rest. What would be a better set of objectives? Apart from pursuing a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and stopping Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, the United States should secure the full modernization of our nuclear deterrent. That must include 400 GBSD land-based missiles, 12 Columbia-class submarines, and 60 strategic bombers with both nuclear cruise missiles and gravity bombs. President Reagan’s watchword of “Peace through Strength” was not just a slogan. It described a policy that worked. Unilateral restraint and appeasement does not. That is a lesson of the Cold War and a sound foundation on which to rest America’s security strategy.
To maintain the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Moscow should take out of service the cruise missile that violates agreements …
Paul Goble Staunton, January 8 – One of the many unfortunate consequences of the Cold War was that Washington and Moscow supported horrific regimes because as bad as they were, they were “our bastards.” When that conflict ended, each side withdrew its support for such regimes and a large number of them fell. Now, there is a growing danger that something similar will return along with growing tensions between Moscow and the West, with each side backing noxious regimes because they are once again at least “our bastards.” To the extent that happens, a major dividend of the end of the earlier cold war will have been lost – and many people around the world will suffer. Aleksandr Skobov calls attention to this positive collateral benefit of the defeat of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Not only did that event lead to the destruction of “almost all totalitarian party regimes built on the Soviet model,” but it also led to the end of a large number of right-wing dictatorships” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C3371DCEFE11). That happened, the Russian commentator says, because the leaders of such dictatorships no longer were viewed as people the West had to support in opposition to Soviet expansionism. And without that support, the rulers who even the West called “our bastards” in many cases were overthrown to the benefit of their populations. “For example,” Skobov writes, “Latin America for the first time in its history was completely cleansed of the unending series of military juntas with their invariable attributes of mass repressions, tortures and death squadrons.” Moreover, “in many parts of the world, civil wars which had lasted more than one decade ended.” On the whole, he concludes, “the 1990s were a time of a massive shift in the direction of the Western political model across the world … the general level of repression, political force, and violations of human rights qualitatively fell … [and] despite all shortcomings, the world became freer and more humane.” This gave rise to a certain euphoria and talk about “the end of history,” and such attitudes did not lead to anything good. Instead, many of the progressive changes that followed 1991 not only in the former Soviet space but around the world proved to be reversible. “But all the same,” Skobov argues, “the 1990s were years of a fundamental progressive shift in the world.” Now, although he does not say so in this commentary, many of those gains are being walked back not only as a result of the growing authoritarianism and aggression of Vladimir Putin’s Russia but also because some in the West are more than willing to support a new group of “our bastards” in the name of defending democracy against Moscow.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 7 – New polls show that the share of Russians who would like to go “back to the USSR” is at its highest levels over the last 15 years, a development many find troubling because it will make the future evolution of Russia toward a normal state far more difficult. But Kseniya Kirillova points out that it entails even greater threats than that. In a commentary for Radio Svoboda, the US-based Russian journalist argues that the foreign policy consequences are both far more immediate and dangerous than those for the domestic situation of the Russian Federation and calls on both Russians and others to reflect on that dangerous reality (svoboda.org/a/29689276.html). “The idealized image of the Soviet past is” in addition to everything else “a justification of the militarist hysteria, imperial complexes and a surrogate of ‘the ideal future’ to which Russia is seeking but which numerous foreign and internal ‘enemies’ are not allowing it to achieve,” Kirillova argues. “This myth,” she continues, “is used as a counterbalance to a second myth, the myth about ‘the global catastrophe, the virtual hell in which Russia will avoidably be dragged if ‘the West gets the upper hand.’ Russian TV generously shows pictures of chaos and marauders on the street, poverty, falling bombs, dead children and the destruction of homes.” In this, “the US is presented as the absolute evil and the sponsor of international terrorism.” According to Kirillova, “the human psyche is so constructed that even the most horrific virtual constructions seem pale in comparison to wretched reality. And paradoxically even in peace time, with its declining standard of living, lack of confidence and uncertainty about tomorrow, psychologically this often seems more unbearable.” Russians from backwoods areas have often told her, Kirillova says, that “’better war than such a life.’” But even those who believe that the West is the only aggressor no longer feel put off as they did a few years ago by the idea that a war against it would be better “than unending expectations of a horrific end.” Even those Russians who aren’t prepared to fight a war on behalf of the current state of their country may be prepared to do so for “a semi-mythological image of the USSR as an ideal to which present-day Russia is striving.” Thus, the Kremlin-promoted nostalgia for the Soviet past opens the way to war. At the very least, it makes it far more possible. In this situation, Kirillova says, “it is difficult to predict how quickly the refrigerator will gain the upper hand over this set of illusions. However, sooner or later the Russian citizen will come up against the fact that the powers do not intend to lead society into ‘a Soviet paradise.’” Instead, the current regime is ready to spend its reserves on war.” And that war, despite all Moscow’s propaganda, will be started not by the West as Russian government propaganda says but “exclusively” by the Kremlin itself.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 6 – Tatyana Khrulyeva of the Rosbalt news agency interviewed five leading expert commentators on where Russians and the Kremlin are at the start of 2019. Their common conclusion is that Russian society is once again in motion as it was in 2011 but the regime will find it harder to suppress dissatisfaction because of the rising level of popular anger. First, Ella Paneyakh of St. Petersburg’s Higher School of Economics notes that declines in Putin’s standing with the population have been severe and that there is no chance they will return to their former levels regardless of what he does. Propaganda alone certainly will not do the job (rosbalt.ru/russia/2019/01/04/1755240.html). Many now think, she says, that the Kremlin may try to recover by annexing Belarus; but this won’t have an effect anywhere close to that of the Crimean Anschluss. Most Russians do not see the situation in Belarus as dire and won’t accept the argument that Moscow is acting in order to protect Russians in trouble. Second, Liliya Shevtsova, now with Chatham House but resident in Moscow, says that the last year has been one of “an historic pause,” one in which the international system has been called into question by many. “The irony in this is that Russia,” whose leaders want to see that system fail, have been “beneficiaries of that order.” Now they face a more hostile West. Moreover, it is one in which they are increasingly outsiders, with the US preparing for a binary world, but with China not Russia as the other pole. Russia will seek to gain allies among underdeveloped countries who will use ties with Moscow to extract more resources from the West but won’t do much to support Russia. Domestically, Russians increasingly view Putin’s new term as his last and think now about who will come after him. The boost he received from the annexation of Crimea has been “exhausted.” Moreover, many see that the Kremlin, accepting that sanctions are for a long time to come, has adopted a policy that won’t work. On the one hand, Moscow now wants to rely on its own resources, but on the other, it isn’t investing in those sectors and individuals that would give it a chance at a breakthrough. Instead, it is pursuing a policy of “de-modernization” and resource extraction, neither of which will lead to its proclaimed goals. Third, Igor Eidman, a sociologist who does commentaries for Deutsche Welle, says that the main trend in the last year has been “the transition to the final stage of Putinism.” His last term was defined by aggression toward Ukraine and confrontation with the West. “This was the peak of the regime as an expansionist force.” His current term “will take place under conditions of stagnation and the gradual self-destruction of the country. Signs of this are already in evidence,” including the growing dissatisfaction of the population. As a result, “’the autumn of the patriarch,’ one comparable to the last years of Stalin and Brezhnev, has begun.” Those around the throne give the impression of well-being, but they have “ceased to understand what is occurring int eh country. Moreover, he system is falling apart to an ever greater degree, and all attempts to modernize it are leading to nothing. The conservative and corrupt bureaucracy is leading the country into a dead end, if not into an abyss.” Fourth, Ivan Kurilla, a professor at St. Petersburg’s European University, says that Russians now have lost hope in improvement in relations with the US in the near term, and because “dialogue with Washington always has influenced Kremlin policies within the country,” they have lost hope in that as well. In large measure, he says, Russia is “to a certain degree returning to the situation of 2011.” People are angry and in motion, and their protests will be ever more difficult to keep separate and local. Instead, just as seven years ago, anger about various things is increasingly likely to come together. What this will lead to is very much unclear, Kurilla says. Recently people have begun to talk in apocalyptic terms, such as the annexation of Belarus, but these notions reflect “not any signs from the kremlin but memories of how the powers that be have acted in the past,” when circumstances were different. He says that in his view, “the leadership of the country does not have so many options in reserve. You will not reunite Crimea twice and it is not guaranteed that similar actions now will have the same effect they had in 2014.” And fifth, Vadim Zhartun of the Nova Team consulting company says that in his view the signal event of the last year was the government’s unsuccessful effort to block Telegram. Telegram resisted and won, creating “a small island of freedom in the Runet” and showing that resistance can work even in a sector the regime cares a lot about. To be sure, the powers that be have been able to achieve “all that they want,” but increasingly these victories look “Pyrrhic.” And it may be the case, Zhartun says, that they are bringing the Putin regime ever closer to its end and the birth of a free Russia ever closer to taking place.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 7 – Russian commentator Vladimir Pozner argument that Russia will change only when the last member of the Russian elite educated in Soviet times passes away (echo.msk.ru/blog/pozner/2346625-echo/) is fundamentally wrong, Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev says (echo.msk.ru/blog/v_inozemcev/2347259). Not only is Pozner’s analysis mistaken in serious ways, despite being shared by many, the director of the Moscow Center for Research on Post-Industrial Society says; but it is a dangerous distraction that helps strengthen the current powers that be and thus threatens to hold Russia back for an ever longer period in the future. Pozner’s logic is superficially attractive, but it is wrong because the Russian elite now displays very few of the elements of its Soviet predecessor and many characteristics that predecessor did not share, including the inclination of many of its members to steal for themselves as much as possible. But there is another logical problem with the position of Pozner and those who share his views. He and they “categorically effuse to recognize that there can exist something which lies beyond the dichotomy of ‘sovietness’ and ‘normality.’” There are many other possibilities and, as the current regime shows, not all of them are good. In addition to these logical problems, Inozemtsev says, there is another fundamental difficulty with Pozner’s analysis. The latter’s insistence that it is the Sovietness of the elite that is the problem is clearly wrong; the real problem is the Sovietness of the population, as displayed in its submissiveness and nostalgia for an even more iron hand. This “soviet submissiveness of the people is a much more serious cause of the approaching catastrophe than the ‘sovietness’ of the elite,” the economist says; and “the transition from this submissiveness to some new state of society if it in general occurs is impossible without a revolution.” Getting this backwards not only is “a dangerous distraction” but it is one that works to the benefit of the current powers that be. “In fact,” however, Russia is rapidly returning not to the late Soviet system but rather to a revival of feudalism run by “a narrow group of people” who have organized things for their own benefit. This ruling caste wants to make its wealth and power inheritable, something that is possible only if the rest of the population remains submissive as it likely will if things continue as they are, the economist says. Consequently, time is not on the side of those who want change but on that of those who want things to stay where they are. “Each new year in our conditions does not increase but rapidly reduces the chances for the transformation of Russia into a contemporary country. To not understand this is to work for the strengthening of the existing regime. And if such a trend now is made sincerely and not just for pay, then that is only an occasion for a new wave of pessimism,” Inozemtsev says.
Paul Goble Staunton, January 7 – Komsomolskaya pravda has taken the unusual step of reporting on a speech Valery Solovey delivered in the provinces and one in which he not only denounced the Putin regime for wasting the oil income of the last two decades but spoke directly about the crisis Russia is facing and the likelihood of radical change in the next several years. The MGIMO professor says that “never was Russia in more favorable foreign policy and foreign economic conditions than in the first 15 years of the 21st century.” Oil prices were high, and the country earned “according to various data, from two to four trillion US dollars” over that period (kp.ru/daily/26927.3/3976532). “But what did we get from this?” He asks rhetorically. “The number of billionaires increased,” but the standard of living of the remaining Russians has fallen to where it was ten years ago. However, “the main thing that has been lost is hope: hope that we will be able to construct if not a more just than a more economically and socially effective society.” “The most important knowledge we all need now is knowledge about the future,” Solovey continues. “A major political crisis will begin in Russia at the end of 2019. It will involve two or three very difficult years, and its result could be the rearrangement of Russia, that is, the creation of a new Russian republic.” “I do not believe that there will be a civil war in Russia,” he says. “That is a scarecrow.” I do not believe that the result of the crisis will be the disintegration of Russia: that is propaganda. And I do not believe that here it will be like in Ukraine. That isn’t going to happen, Solovey says. But he does say the following: “The final stage of the crisis will come on quite quickly and its result will be the improvement of life” for Russians. All that is necessary for that to happen, Solovey argues, is to annual “several idiotic laws which limit economic activity. It isn’t necessary to introduce anything.” Too many people want to introduce new laws, but what is required is to get rid of the laws that allow the bureaucracy to lay its dead head on the economy. Companies spend far too much time reporting things the government wants reports on than producing and selling things as they are supposed to. Get the bureaucracy out of the way! People complained about the Soviet bureaucrats, Solovey says; but “the Soviet bureaucracy was the height of humaneness and rationality in comparison with the idiocy which any workers of a budget institution is now forced to occupy himself with.” Eliminate that idiocy and you will release productive forces allowing Russia to become a flourishing economy. “Will Russia become a democratic country after this? I am not certain,” the MGIMO historian continues. “I do not believe that it is possible to assemble 100 of the best people of Russia and they will create a democracy for us. No, for Russia to be transformed into a democracy will require 12 to 15 years.” With the economic growth that eliminating the laws that are holding things back, there is a chance that will happen. But at the very least, people will see their lives improved and they will reacquire what they have lost: hope in the future, the most important commodity of all.
Polish Air Force has just deployed four F-16 jets to Siauliai, Lithuania, to participate in the NATO Baltic Air Policing. Poland acts as the lead nation over the course of this rotation and it has taken over the duties from the Belgian Air Component working together with Germany (augmenting nation), with the Luftwaffe having its jets stationed at the Estonian Ämari Air Base. Over the course of 2018 the NATO BAP assets were scrambled more than a hundred times. Poland has been deeply involved in the Baltic Air Policing initiative since 2006. However, during most of the rotations the Polish Air Force deployed its MiG-29 jets to Siauliai. The deployment of the F-16s is a major shift here, with a dual meaning: first, since the MiG-29 is soon going to be phased out (the airframe has been in Polish service for nearly 3 decades now), it is a logical step to give the Viper drivers a chance to work in the Lithuanian airspace. Secondly, this would also provide the F-16 pilots with relevant, real life QRA duty experience, probably allowing the service to refine its approach towards such operations, should they involve the F-16 more often in the future. This time Poland is sending 140 troops along with the F-16 jets to work within the framework of the mission. The rotation is to end in mid-May. Previous rotation involving the Polish assets took place from May 2017 until August 2017 (F-16Cs). Back then, the Polish F-16 intercepted Il-20M SIGINT/IMINT platform on May 15 and governmental Tu-154M with head of the Russian MoD onboard on Jun. 21, 2017.
The Navy secretary says his service must be ready to answer Russian moves at the top of the world. In October 2017, not long after Richard Spencer became U.S. Navy Secretary, he visited Iceland to learn how Russia was asserting dominance in a warming Arctic landscape. “There was Russia, lighting up five Cold War runways with 10,000 Spetsnaz for ‘search and rescue,’” he said, referring to an exercise that spanned nearly the entire Russian coastline and which some observers said could mimic an Iceland assault. The U.S. Navy, he determined, had to be better prepared to operate in the Arctic. On Monday, Spencer told an audience at the Center for New American Security that he was talking with Chief Naval Officer Adm. John Richardson about “having some ships make the transit” — that is, the first journey from one ocean to another viaArctic waters by American surface warships. The Arctic is heating up and changing twice as fast as the rest of the globe. Some anticipate that it could regularly be virtually ice-free in summer by 2040. That reality, coupled with Russia’s aggressiveness, is forcing the Navy to look at its ability to operate in there with thawed eyes. “You’re seeing the discussion change dramatically,” said Spencer. “We had the Navy’s [Arctic] Roadmap. We are adjusting that…and there’s more to come.”
A high-octane tribute to the legendary Soviet T-34 tank has taken the Russian box office by storm.
The British royal family is being drawn into the anti-Russian campaign of the country’s leaders, the Russian Embassy in London commented. The Russian representation was displeased to learn of Prince Harry’s intention to take part in the upcoming military drills in Norway, TASS reports. The Russian diplomats see the drills as anti-Russian, and feel that the reports in local tabloids about the prince’s plans are part of British politicians’ campaign against Russia. The Russians are also of the opinion that “the authority of politicians and generals to ensure public support of this course is no longer adequate”. On Saturday, January 5, the Daily Mirror, The Sun and the Daily Mail reported that the military exercises will be used to practice repelling hypothetical Russian aggression. Their sources in the royal household say that there will be no official announcement of Prince Harry’s involvement. The upcoming drills will involve 8,000 military personnel, including 1,000 British marines and troops from the US, the Netherlands, and Norway.
A specialist military team will carry out the work as part of the decontamination of the site.
Clearn-up work will reportedly take four months.
U.S. and North Korean officials have held talks in the Vietnamese capital.
The patrol ship from the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Pytlivy, monitors the actions of USS Fort McHenry, a large landing ship of the US Navy, which …
The USS Fort McHenry is the first U.S. ship to enter the Black Sea since a naval standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces near the annexed Crimea Peninsula in November.
A Dutch warship that has headed a standing NATO maritime group plans to enter the Black Sea, Head of the Mission of Ukraine to NATO Vadym Prystaiko has said. — Ukrinform
The President of Ukraine believes that the Russian Federation should explain why new S-400 air defense missile system and new anti-ship defense system are located now in Kerch and Feodosia in occupied Crimea. — Ukrinform
Russia will not decide how the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait are to be used, because Ukraine will not allow this, Ukrainian President Petro …
President Petro Poroshenko has said that Russia has no right to decide for Ukraine on how it should use the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. Ukraine will never recognise the occupation of the Sea of Azov which Russia is currently trying to push through, he said in an interview with CNN Turk. “We insist on international law, we will use the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov,” his press service quoted him as saying. He pointed out that the Sea of Azov is the area of commercial activities for the multi-million agglomeration in eastern Ukraine. “I hate to think that Russia will decide for sovereign and independent Ukraine. We will not let it happen,” the president said. He once again condemned the 25 November attack on Ukrainian vessels by Russia in international waters off the Kerch Strait. Poroshenko said that Russia is also trying to destabilise the security situation in the Black Sea. Read LB.ua news on social networks Facebook and Twitter
Ukraine submitted a full-fledged statement against the Russian Federation on the violation of the rights of 24 Ukrainian sailors
Russian attorney Ilya Novikov told Echo of Moscow in an interview that, during their aggression against the Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait, …
Biological traces in the wrong place and a plot you wouldn’t find in the shoddiest detective novel. These are just some of the weak links in Russia’s latest trial of two Ukrainians from Sevastopol: academic Oleksiy Bessarabov and retired naval captain Volodymyr Dudka. The agency has have been using all measures, including deprivation of urgently needed medical care, to try to force the men to “confess” to their wildly implausible “plot.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says the Russian Federation will exploit the issue of the release of Ukrainian sailors and political prisoners captured by Moscow in the context of the upcoming Ukraine elections. Ukraine’s minister is convinced the Ukrainian sailors will not be released until the court in Russia hands down its rulings.
Over the past day, Russian proxy forces in Donbas violated the ceasefire five times, while no cases were recorded of them using weapons prohibited by the Minsk accords, the Joint Forces Operation HQ reported Tuesday morning. Ukraine reports 1 WIA.
At about 20:00 Kyiv time on Tuesday, Jan 8, Ukrainian radar equipment helped spot an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying several kilometers from a military facility. Security measures at military arsenals across the country have been increased following a series of devastating acts of sabotage, which many believe have been carried out with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Militants launched five attacks on Ukrainian positions in the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) area in Donbas over the past day. The weapons banned under the Minsk agreements were not used. — Ukrinform
Ukrainian Defense Ministry press secretary Maksym Prauta says the Russian occupation administration has been issuing passports of the unrecognized “Luhansk and Donetsk People’s republics” to Russian military and mercenaries deployed in the occupied Donbas, eastern Ukraine. Russian army officers are first in line to get the IDs to conceal their presence in the warzone.
The counterintelligence department of the SBU Security Service of Ukraine in 2018 exposed 71 persons involved in the subversive activities orchestrated by foreign intelligence services. The Security Service of Ukraine says its operatives prevented eight terrorist acts across the country.
An indictment against the organizer of an illegal “referendum” in Novodruzhesk has been sent to a court in Luhansk region, the press service of the Luhansk Regional Prosecutor’s Office has said. — Ukrinform
Almost five years into the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Kremlin’s use of the information weapon against Ukraine has not decreased; Ukraine still stands out as the most misrepresented country in pro-Kremlin media. 2018: Assessing the damage Ukraine tops the EUvsDisinfo database as the most frequent target with 461 references among a total of 1,000 disinformation cases reported in the course of 2018. Out of the 212 reports appearing in the “anti-fake” section of the independent Russian outlet The Insider in 2018, 60 were about Ukraine (including Crimea). In its latest publications before the holidays, The Insider’s fact-checkers found problems e.g. in Russian state media’s reporting about Ukraine’s foreign debts, about the Ukrainian army and about the country’s president. The Kyiv-based online outlet StopFake, which monitors the way pro-Kremlin media portray Ukraine, recently presented a Top 10 of disinformation targeting Ukraine in 2018. StopFake’s list includes reports claiming that Ukrainian children are forced to play with stuffed Adolf Hitler dolls; that Ukrainian students are forced to reject relatives living in Russia and that Ukraine’s national church “is becoming the Christian version of ISIS”.
Ukraine appeared in 461 out of 1,000 disinformation cases in Russian mass media in the course of 2018. — Ukrinform
Ukraine remains main target for Russian disinformation war, – research
Armed formations of the Russian Federation and pro-Kremlin mercenaries have been spreading the fake pieces of information so as to discredit the Ukrainian armed forces in Donbas. The Joint Control and Coordination Centre (JCCC) reported that on Facebook, with the Joint Forces Operation HQ quoting them. The Ukrainian side of the JCCC got the request from the OSCE SMM’s regional office; the organization asked to provide the extra security guarantees for the snow clearing crews and the SMM patrols working in the areas of Pervomaisk and Novooleksandrivka. The Ukrainian side provided the guarantees to the full extent; however, the Russian armed units and their mercenaries ‘spread fake information about the units of the Joint Forces having attacked the said area, which ended up in the prevention of these works to be complete’, the message by the JCCC said. The Joint Centre also mentioned information provocations claiming that the Ukrainian army could launch attacks on the OSCE SMM drones; such statements have no grounds, it said, adding that such fakes prevent the OSCE SMM from performing its duties within the ceasefire monitoring.
Ukraine’s Ground Forces will soon be on the receiving end of a massive shipment of sniper rifles from Canada. The rifle in question is none other than PGW’s flagship heavy-caliber rifle, the LRT-3 Sniper Weapon System.
Polish company WB Electronics and Ukraine’s state-owned defense industrial group, UkrOboronProm planning to jointly develop a new medium-range air defense system, according to a WB Electronics representative Roman Mushal. During a scientific and practical conference on the problems of Polish air defense, Roman Mushal said that Polish private defense company WB Electronics intends to jointly with Ukraine implement a project to develop a mobile, medium-range surface-to-air guided missile system. According to him, at the heart of the project should be the advanced version of the Ukrainian-made R-27 air-to-air guided missile. R. Mushal noted that most of the necessary elements have already been created – the engine, fuel, homing heads (active, passive and thermal imaging). He stated that the time required for the deployment of production in Poland is approximately three years. The new medium-range missile system will be used to protect the important buildings, objects as well as ground troops against all types of aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles, guided weapons, air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles, anti-radar rockets and large-calibre rockets. The new air defense system will have a range of up to about 30 km for a missile with infrared homing (WICHER-ET), 25 km for a version with active-radar homing (WICHER-EA) and almost 110 km for passive radar version (WICHER PEP). The new medium-range air defense system will have a vertical launching system. The air defense system also could be mounted on a locally produced Jelcz 662D truck. The total mass of the chassis (maximum load) is 14,000 kg (11,000 kg).
Polish company WB Electronics and Ukraine’s UkrOboronProm plan to jointly develop a new medium-range air defense system. “Polish company WB Electronics and Ukraine’s state-owned defense industrial group, UkrOboronProm planning to jointly develop a new medium-range air defense system,” Defence Blog reports with reference to WB Electronics representative Roman Mushal. According to Mushal, at the heart of the project should be the advanced version of the Ukrainian-made R-27 air-to-air guided missile. He also noted that most of the necessary elements had already been created – the engine, fuel, homing heads (active, passive and thermal imaging). The time required for the deployment of production in Poland is approximately three years, Mushal stated. The new medium-range missile system will be used to protect the important buildings, objects as well as ground troops against all types of aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles, guided weapons, air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles, anti-radar rockets and large-calibre rockets.
Enterprises of the State Concern Ukroboronprom announced more than 43,000 commercial electronic tenders in 2018, the press service of the concern reports. — Ukrinform
Defense industry enterprises of the State Concern Ukroboronprom will use the electronic public procurement system ProZorro to sell or lease their assets, the press service of the concern reports. — Ukrinform
Following a financial inspection at the Kyiv Armored Plant, the State Audit Service revealed violations worth tens of millions of hryvnias over a period from January 1, 2012, to late September 2018. The plant management failed to properly monitor the fulfillment of contractual obligations. Following a financial inspection at the Kyiv Armored Plant, the State Audit Service revealed violations worth tens of millions of hryvnias over a period from January 1, 2012, to late September 2018. The auditors noted that the plant management did not thoroughly control the fulfillment of contractual obligations, which led to multi-million losses, the online media project Marlin wrote, citing a letter of the State Audit Service, according to the Economichna Pravda. “The company failure to take measures to eliminate breaches of contractual discipline due to the court acknowledging their contractors as bankrupt, accumulating receivables, which is a consequence of insufficient internal control over the implementation of contracts the company concluded, led to the loss of assets totaling UAH 20.2 million and, in the future, may lead to losses amounting to UAH 3.9 million,” the agency says. For untimely fulfillment of contracts concluded with military units, courts imposed on KAP fines and penalties totaling UAH 8.4 million. Also, the auditors revealed issues in cooperation with state-controlled weapons exporters, namely, the reservation by the latter of KAP funds up to UAH 17 million, which deprived the plant of the right to dispose of working capital and allocate funds for carrying out settlements, including on debt obligations. In a separate line, the KAP management is believed to have failed to take measures to ensure registration of the title to land plots with a total area of 47.1 hectares located within Kyiv city limits. Such negligence can lead to an actual loss of ownership. In addition, during 2012-2018, the armored plant reported UAH 3.2 million expenses for maintaining two land plots with a total area of 4.9 hectares, while, in fact, the land was never used. As reported earlier, the National Anti-corruption Bureau suspects KAP officials of abusing power in a UAH 57.1 million purchase of steel, which did not meet design requirements.
Employees of Ukraine’s SBU Security Service, under the procedural control of the prosecutor’s office, have exposed a former employee of a research institution in Kharkiv who illegally cooperated with a foreign military company, SBU’s press center has reported. — Ukrinform
The officers of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) have exposed ex-worker of one of the research institutes of Kharkiv in the illicit cooperation with the foreign military company as SBU reported. According to the security service, a former engineer from design studio agreed on the cooperation with a foreign machine-building company when he visited one of the East Asian countries. Related: Ukraine’s Security Service detains militants’ machine gunner in Donbas conflict zone A man provided the foreigner with the consultations on the development and construction of particular components of military armored vehicles for payment. In accordance with the Ukrainian legislation, the technical support in the military and technical sphere should be provided only with the authorization of the State service of export control of Ukraine. A criminal proceeding due to the violation of the order of the international pass of the goods, which should be checked by State Export Control, was opened against the engineer, who sold the secrets of the Ukrainian armored vehicles to Asia. A man can be fined from 100 up to 200 times the individual income of the citizens and the restriction of the freedom up to three years.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin has not ruled out the possibility that Ukraine may introduce a biometric visa regime with the Russian Federation.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says he stands for a permanent ban on the entry of male citizens of Russia aged 16-60 into Ukraine. About 1,650 Russian citizens were denied entry into Ukraine while martial law was in effect for 30 days.
A statement by former Czech President Vaclav Klaus in an interview with TV Prima claiming that Ukraine was being goaded by Western political elites, including that of the Czech Republic, to provoke Russia and its President Vladimir Putin, saw a harsh response by Ukraine’s Ambassador in Prague, Yevhen Perebyinis. Mr. Perebyinis, via Twitter, asked whether this means it was Czechoslovakia who provoked “cautious and sober” Hitler back in 1938. A statement by former Czech President Vaclav Klaus in an interview with TV Prima claiming that Ukraine was being goaded by Western political elites, including that of the Czech Republic, to provoke Russia and its President Vladimir Putin, saw a harsh response by Ukraine’s Ambassador in Prague, Yevhen Perebyinis. Mr. Klaus said on TV Prima that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behaving cautiously and soberly and not reacting to each provocation, adding that this was fortunate, Radio Praha reports. Mr. Perebyinis, via Twitter, asked whether Hitler too had been cautious and sober.
The Mazovian Department of the National Prosecutor’s Office of Poland brought the case file to court against three Polish citizens, who on Feb. 4, 2018, carried out an arson attack on Uzhgorod (Ukraine) headquarters of Zakarpattia Society of Hungarian Culture. It was a Russia-staged provocation that was supposed to lead to the deterioration of Ukrainian-Hungarian relations.
Ukraine’s accession to the EU and NATO is possible in the medium term, so one should not believe in either a promise of joining in a year or two or the predictions this will happen 30 years from now. — Ukrinform
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin believes that the country could not join the European Union in near five years, as he said on air of 1+1, Interfax-Ukraine reported. “Ukraine, as it is now, will not join the EU in a year, in two years or even five,” the Minister stated. According to him, Ukraine’s membership in the EU or NATO is the question of a mid-term perspective. “If someone tells you we will join in a year or two, do not trust them, it’s a lie, but if someone tells you that this will take 30 years, do not believe them either. Experience shows different things,” he added.
Ukraine has every chance of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after Macedonia joins the Alliance. Macedonia may join the Alliance in the spring of 2020. Ukraine has every chance of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) after Macedonia joins the Alliance. “As you know, the Alliance is considering, besides Macedonia, three more countries, among them are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine – as these countries are ready and preparing themselves for membership of the Alliance,” head of the Mission of Ukraine to NATO Vadym Prystaiko said on TV channel 112 Ukraine.
On March 31, Ukraine will hold the first round of its presidential election. This is a tremendous opportunity to restart Ukraine’s reforms. The election debate needs to focus on the most important issue, namely the enforcement of property rights. Five years after the Revolution of Dignity and Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s situation remains precarious. The rule of law has not been established. Scandalously, a Kyiv court just reinstated the former chairman of the State Fiscal Service in spite of major accusations of defrauding the state of $70 million, illustrating the persistent dysfunction of the judicial system. Similarly, the reform of the prosecution has failed, and the security services remain untouched. The successful reforms have largely been economic. Inflation and the exchange rate have stabilized. Energy subsidies have been cut, bringing the budget close to balance. The payroll tax has been halved, which has reduced the shadow economy. The ProZorro electronic system has cleaned up much of public procurement. Corporate governance has improved in several big state companies and decentralization reform has endowed municipalities with new initiative. Yet economic growth lingers at 3 percent when it should be at least 7 percent for a relatively poor country with open access to wealthy Europe. Macroeconomic stability does not deliver economic growth if businessmen fear extortion or outright theft from corporate raiders. Cautiously, wealthy Ukrainians transfer their savings abroad and keep them out of reach of the authorities. Foreigners see that leading Ukrainians dare not invest and stay away. Thus, Ukraine has an investment ratio of barely 20 percent of GDP, when it should rise to 30 percent of GDP for a sound growth rate. Therefore, the key demand in the presidential race should be the establishment of truly independent and impartial courts to endow Ukraine with reliable property rights. After the failure of judicial reform which was completed in 2017, Ukraine needs to include the foreign assessment of judges so that corrupt judges are dismissed. The same should be the case with prosecutors. The economic crime part of the State Security Service (SBU) should be abolished. Instead, a new financial police agency should be established under the Ministry of Finance, as in the United States. That US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, has 350 officers, while the SBU has 8,000 officers supposed to deal with economic crimes, though they have not prosecuted any economic crime in living memory. If the presidential campaign does not lead to a new round of judicial reform, it has failed. Ukrainians often complain about the “oligarchs.” This is convenient, because nobody in particular is criticized, just the system. But no successful legal reform is possible without clean leaders. The ultimate demand is that a new president is honest. Ukraine suffers from monopolization of specific markets, usually through the prohibition of competitors by illicit means. Westerners tend to call for anti-trust and competition policies, but in Ukraine a more adequate answer is the establishment of the rule of law, simply allowing competitors. This should be popular since it leads to lower prices. Ukraine has already adopted laws to introduce real market prices for natural gas and electricity starting on July 1. Today the discussion should focus on how to make sure this really happens, not how to distort these prices. Another traditional way of elite enrichment and political funding is to tap the 3,500 state companies through transfer pricing or corrupt procurement. The only plausible way out is rapid privatization of the vast majority of these companies in open auctions. Rather than starting with the big companies that are always difficult to sell, the State Property Fund should begin with small firms. If economy is to take off, Ukraine needs to legalize sales of private agricultural land, which will greatly boost investment and returns on agricultural land. But many things must not be done. First of all, politicians must not call for default or restructuring of the country’s foreign debt. Ukraine must honor its foreign debt in full not to be cut off from global financial markets. The country has no fiscal space to increase public expenditures or cut taxes without further cuts in public expenditures. Some politicians are strangely infatuated with an “exit capital tax” that would cut public revenues by about 1.5 percent of GDP, while these same people do not want to cut any expenditures. Why should wealthy enterprises benefit from a tax cut rather than poor Ukrainians? The ultimate question is whether the March presidential election will be sufficiently free to allow for a democratic choice, or will money and media control decide the outcome? Anders Åslund is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He tweets @anders_aslund.
A Ukrainian public organization named after Ivan Franko in Sumqayit, Azerbaijan, has taken part in a flash mob in support of captive sailors in Russia, according to the organization’s page on Facebook. — Ukrinform
A cargo ship VOLGO-BALT 214, which sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast on Monday, Jan 7, was carrying coal from the port of Azov (the Russian Federation) to Samsun (Turkey). Until recently, the vessel flew a Russian flag.
Ukraine’s Ministry for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons says that a cargo vessel that sank in the Black Sea off the coast of Turkey could transport stolen coal from the occupied regions of Donbas. — Ukrinform
Turkish rescue teams say they have recovered the bodies of three Ukrainians who were killed when a cargo ship sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast.
Four Ukrainian citizens have been killed after a cargo ship sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast, Kyiv’s envoy to Ankara said.
A General Electric’s locomotive has stuck on the Ukrainian railway. Oleksandr Kava, the former deputy head of the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure of Ukraine posted that on Facebook. Kava released the reported by the State Service for Transport Safety dated January 3. According to it, the new locomotive stuck on the railway between Volnovakha to Komysh-Zorya, in Donetsk and Zaporizhya region, respectively. It pulled the train with the total weight of only 3,768 tons. ‘We had to summon an old 2TE116 vehicle, built at Luhanskteplovoz factory 37 years ago’, he wrote. Kava pointed out that the vehicle could not even carry the much smaller weight than that carried by the old locomotives. ‘Thus, in order to bring the same amount of cargo in this section, one will need more runs than these performed by the old 2TE116 locomotives. Respectively, we need more locomotives and more crews. The level of efficiency is obvious’, Kava concluded. Ukraine is to get 30 locomotives from General Electric, which is foreseen by the respective contract.
The attitude of the Czechs toward Ukraine and Ukrainians has improved significantly, the Czech Center for Public Opinion Research reports. — Ukrinform
The police of Spain have released five girls from Ukraine and Russia from sex slavery. RIA Novosti news agency reported this, specifying that the ladies were forcefully held at a night club in Granada; the employers forced them into working as prostitutes. The law enforcers detained four people as suspects in the crime, three of them were taken to custody. The police refused to name their actual citizenships. The pimps searched for their future victims via social networks, offering jobs of hostesses or administrators to gorgeous young women who needed money. The employers offered them up to 3,000 Euros of salary. Actually, the girls ended up in the brothel where the ’employers’ forced them into sexual services. If they refused, the owners of the night club threatened to throw them out without the money and passports. The police also found guns and marijuana in the brothel.