Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

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The Nobel Committee announced today this year’s recipients for Physics. They are Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald for research into neutrino oscillations. What is a neutrino? Neutrinos are subatomic particles produced by the decay of radioactive elements.  They are elementary particles that lack an electric charge, or, as F. Reines would say, “…the most tiny quantity of reality ever imagined by a human being”. Living in Washington, I can imagine a tiny amount of reality.

Looking at the definition of the neutrino phenomenon and applying it elsewhere, could there a better description of our current foreign policy blunder in Syria?

It was revealed today that the US considered handing over locations of US backed rebels to the Russians last week, thinking these areas might be targeted by Russian forces decided against it. Fortunately the White House and Pentagon ran that idea past the desk of Capt. Obvious who thought it better not to give the Russians targeting data for their first bombing runs.

The “most tiny quantity of reality ever imagined”  is what we are stuck with for the next seventeen (17) months with regard to this White House’s timid and indecisive policy regarding Syria and foreign policy.

The nascent US assistance program for the rebels battling the Assad regime is literally going up in smoke with every Russian sortie and the White House has shown no desire to counter these attacks except to “raise concerns about the targets of the attacks.” I’m sure that made the Russians reconsider.

Neutrinos are described as “hardly interacting with the rest of creation.”  This certainly describes this administration’s current foreign policy debacle in Syria-stumbling along outside the realm of reality interacting with no one else within an echo chamber.

Not to worry though, the President already received his Nobel Prize back in 2009.

Check and Checkmate in Syria

Posted: October 1, 2015 in Iran, Russia, Syria
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Our Daily Challenge: Checkered I too went with the obvious choice.

 

Today it was reported that Russian aircraft targeted sites outside of Homs which contained no ISIS elements but rather CIA funded rebels fighting the Assad regime.

Shocking.

Any hope that Russia is in Syria to take on ISIS is held only by the White House and its supporters. Vladimir Putin has no track record of being on “the right side of history” (as the White House has a proclivity to say).  To believe Russia would be an honest broker and a credible actor is nothing short of naive.

What is shocking is how bewildered this White House is in its reaction to Putin’s successful gambit of aiding President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the eleventh hour. From Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s remarks of “this is like pouring gasoline onto the fire” to John Kerry’s joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following the announcement of Russia’s unilateral military action — this administration’s actions defy logic or explanation.

The Kremlin, in cooperation with Iran, has made an obvious promise to the Assad regime.  The Russians and the Iranians have promised to see the Assad regime through the present crisis. Russian airpower is the first strike in this promise. It has been reported in the UK press that Iranian and Hizbollah forces have entered the northwest area of Syria (targeted by Russian aircraft) in preparation for a ground attack on Syrian rebel forces holding that territory.

Inaction by the US has now brought on a wider conflict, leading to the real possibility of greater lethal complexity in Syria.  The White House has been checkmated but the true losers in this fiasco are the Syrian people themselves.

 

Rose-Colored-Glasses

The White House released its budget for 2016 and with it President Obama revealed his vision of the threats that he sees  confronting the United States in 2015. The White House is still clinging to the misguided belief that a “pivot to Asia” is the first foreign policy priority facing the US this year while dismissing the chaos in eastern Ukraine and the spiraling violence under ISIS (ISIL of Islamic State…take your pick) in Syria and Iraq as short term challenges.

John Kerry, US Secretary of State, confirmed these missteps by stating the pivot to Asia remains“a top priority for every one of us in [Obama’s] administration.” This tragedy of group think in this administration is ignoring the obvious and dismissing the dangerous.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ISIS’ nation grab are massive challenges the the US and the community of nations writ large will have to contend with for years to come.

The Obama administration came into power six years ago with a commitment to “pivot” or to swing away from Europe and the Middle East and focus on Asia. One has to credit the White House that despite the erasure of borders in Europe and the Middle East through state sponsored aggression, they have remained true to their original vision.

This week The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) released their ten priorities in foreign policy issues for 2015. This is a compilation by leading scholar/practitioners in the foreign policy world. Those top ten priorities are:

-the intensification of the conflict in Iraq
-a large-scale attack on the U.S. homeland or ally
-a cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure
-a severe North Korean crisis
-the renewed threat of Israeli military strikes against Iran
-an armed confrontation in the South China Sea
-the escalation of the Syrian civil war
-rising violence and instability in Afghanistan
-increased fighting in eastern Ukraine
-heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions

CFR’s top ten included two focusing on east Asia. The overwhelming majority of challenges remain focused on Europe and the Middle East.

It is time to place politics and ego aside and focus on the clear and present dangers that confront the US today. Sovereign states have been invaded and occupied (Ukraine) by an aggressor nation (Russia) while a well organized terrorist organization (ISIS)  has swept into Iraq and Syria and is now a center for Islamic extremism.

It’s time for the White House to rethink its long held pivot to Asia in favor of a pivot to reality.

 

NATO-Georgia

The NATO summit this week in Cardiff, Wales will have a full agenda but a priority issue is finally bringing Georgia into NATO.

In 2008 Georgia engaged Russia in a ill-timed and poorly planned conflict with Russia over the its breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That short conflict was more about Georgia seeking closer ties to NATO rather than those two  breakaway provinces.  Georgia went forward in that conflict believing that NATO would be there as a deterrent to Moscow and Putin’s expansionist goals.  NATO did not show up.

Today Georgia still faces a threat from Moscow and Vladimir Putin’s idea of a Russia as the successor state to the former USSR.  As with all former Soviet republics today, Georgia faces an increasingly belligerent Russian foreign policy which is being designed as a buffer for Russia essentially against the rest of the globe.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia continue to act as forien countries even though they are in reality a part of Georgia and the people that live there continue to believe that Russia will guarantee their future.  Moscow has clearly abandoned any idea of absorbing these two orphan districts except for the fact that Putin would never allow them to be anything more than what they are today–anything but a part of Georgia.

NATO has been slow to this point in bringing Georgia into a closer relationship–that pace must now be quickened. Prior to this year it was NATO’s policy to not provoke Moscow by offering Georgia membership in NATO. Over the past year, however, Moscow has plundered Ukrainian sovereignty with a land grab in Crimea while attempting to create a new frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to bisect a sovereign country.

What more egregious behavior on Moscow’s part must happen for NATO to take action?

One dynamic that Vladimir Putin understands is decisive and focused action. The time for Georgia to be welcomed into NATO is now. The time to send that decisive signal to Vladimir Putin and his hegemonic dreams is long past due.

 

abkhazia

What if there were an election for President and nobody noticed? This is the situation this morning in Abkhazia as they declared a winner in a snap election for President yesterday.  An “opposition” party candidate ,Raul Khadzhimba, won this contest.

Referring to Khadzhimba as an opposition candidate is almost making a mockery out of the term. His policy is continued close relations with Moscow, in fact as close as the outgoing President advocated.

That outgoing President, Alexander Ankvab, was charged with corruption and misrule with wide ranging protests against him last May.  At that time protesters broke into the Presidential palace forcing him to flee that capital of Sukhumi to parts unknown.  This led to yesterday’s election of Khadzhimba, who led the protests last May.  Those protests, however, where based on the alleged corruption of the former President Ankvab, not on the unilateral and unrecognized break with Georgia instigated and backed by Moscow.

Most Black Sea security experts predict Moscow will never annex Abkhazia as it did Crimea last Spring.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has particular designs for Crimea which include unfettered access to Russia’s Black Sea fleet which is home ported in Crimea.  Abkhazia, on the other hand, needs Russia more than Russia needs Abkhazia. The one desirable aspect of lossely aligning Abkhazia (along with South Ossetia) with Russia has already taken place–  dismembering Georgia, a border state that once harbored NATO aspirations.

The importance of these elections in Abkhazia lie in the sunflower fields of eastern Ukraine. The attempted dismemberment of Ukraine by Putin over the past six months seems all too similar to his 2008 war against Georgia. He supported separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia just as he has supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.

But today Abkhazia is no closer to becoming part of Russia and all indications are it will always be a separated proxy state wholly dependent of Vladimir Putin’s generosity.  This is not a envious position to be in and this will be a lesson soon learned for Donesk  and Lugansk currently in rebel hands in eastern Ukraine.

Abkhazia is a forgotten corner in the Caucuses, separated and alone–just what Moscow desires. Those fighting for “freedom” in eastern Ukraine would do well to take notice.

Russia’s Lost Convoy

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Russia, Ukraine
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Russian humanitarian convoy moves to Ukraine

The long and winding road from Mosow to Lugansk for Russia’s “humanitarian” convoy is now held at the Ukrainian border as the Red Cross (ICRC) begins the transfer to its authority.

The next step will be ensuring there will be no Russian military presence associated with the aid and that the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine will allow the ICRC safe and unfettered access into the region they currently control which is the intended destination of the cargo being transported from Moscow.

This convoy of nearly 300 Russian military vehicles, which were hastily repainted a non-threating white from their normal green camouflage, originated from military bases outside Moscow with Russian military drivers and escorts. Both Kiev and Western officials are not convinced that this is a benign humanitarian effort on the part of Vladimir Putin.  Some believe it could even be a precursor to a “peacekeeping” mission by Russian military units which continue to build in numbers on the Ukrainian border (NATO now estimating 20,000 Russian troops).

In reality this convoy is yet another diversion by Vladimir Putin as he attempts to minimize the impact of western sanctions and to maximize the benefits of instigating chaos on the frontier border with Ukraine. This is a classic example of the arsonist offering assistance in putting out the blaze that he himself set.

If this cargo is humanitarian aid it will be well received in Lugansk, although calling the situation there a “humanitarian crisis” is somewhat overplaying the reality. That, however, serves the propaganda machine of Putin and gives necessary pretext for any “peacekeeping” operations to come rolling over the border and into Ukraine.

This convoy, as described in these pages, has been widely referred to as Putin’s trojan horse.  As the days and kilometers have dragged on and now the delay at the border, these white trucks from Moscow are quickly becoming Putin’s white elephant.

 

 

 

A Trojan Horse Painted White

Posted: August 13, 2014 in Russia, Ukraine
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trojan-horse-smaller.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scale

The latest ploy from Moscow, unilaterally organizing a “humanitarian” convoy from a military base outside Moscow paints Russian President Vladimir Putin as the last 20th century leader on the world stage.

The most recent chapter in Moscow’s once mysterious but now bizarre actions in supporting the rebels in eastern Ukraine sees a convoy of 280 trucks from Moscow snake their way toward Lugansk in eastern Ukraine. The ongoing isolation of that city is due to Ukrainian forces slowly tightening the circle around separatist forces in the region including Donetsk, the makeshift HQ of Putin’s proxy forces in the region.

Now Putin orders Russian military trucks quickly repainted white and stuffed with items known only to the Russian military who are wholly in charge of its destination.  This clumsily concealed movement is said to be coordinated through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) but ICRC officials have stated they are in no way control of this action and are completely in the dark as to the contents of these trucks.

Ukraine has stated it will not allow this convoy to pass through its territory in its journey to Lugansk. If this happens Moscow can redirect the route to pass through several porous checkpoints between eastern Ukraine and Russia which are still under the control of separatists. At best this is a clumsy propaganda ploy by Putin using food as his latest weapon against Kiev, at worst it is a trojan horse being deployed in advance of a full scale military move into eastern Ukraine to stem the recent advances by Ukrainian forces.

Either scenario takes the reader back to the middle of the 20th century when such actions where common and blindingly transparent. It’s clear that Vladimir Putin is a creation of not only the KGB bureaucracy but of the late 20th century.

He feels most comfortable with confrontation and petty role playing which characterized the intelligence services of old. Putin, however, has awaken to 2014 and the realization that he has overplayed a well worn hand of cards which leaves him with very few rational options as he has now bluffed his way to the end of his game.