Author Topic: Russia/US-- Europe  (Read 171830 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Lithuania offers Plan C
« Reply #950 on: July 25, 2023, 04:36:32 PM »
New plan. Three Lithuanian ministers on Monday sent a letter to the European Commission proposing that Baltic Sea ports be used to export Ukrainian agricultural products following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal. According to the proposal, Ukrainian goods could be transported to the Ukrainian-Polish border and then shipped by land to the port of Klaipeda.

Crafty_Dog

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Crafty_Dog

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Poland-Belarus
« Reply #952 on: July 28, 2023, 11:47:57 AM »


Border protection. Poland is considering closing its border with Belarus following the deployment of hundreds of Wagner Group mercenaries from Russia to Belarus, according to Poland's interior minister. He also said his country was discussing with Lithuania and Latvia possible joint actions in the event of serious incidents involving the mercenaries on NATO and EU borders. The Polish government also plans to build a new fence along the Belarusian border.

Crafty_Dog

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RANE: Russia, Belarus, Romania, and Poland
« Reply #953 on: August 03, 2023, 02:22:07 PM »


Russia's Activities Near Romania and Poland Risk Sparking Another NATO Crisis
Aug 3, 2023 | 16:57 GMT





A Polish soldier stands by anti-tank obstacles by the metal wall constructed at the Belarussian border in Bialowieza, Poland, on July 08, 2023.
A Polish soldier stands by anti-tank obstacles by the metal wall constructed at the Belarussian border in Bialowieza, Poland, on July 08, 2023.
(Omar Marques/Getty Images)

Russia and Belarus' ongoing activities at the Romanian and Polish borders carry a high risk of sparking a crisis with the two NATO members, though if this happens, Bucharest and Warsaw will likely seek de-escalation. In recent days, Poland and Romania have warned their NATO and EU partners about potential Russian and Belarussian aggression in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. On Aug. 1, the Polish government accused Belarus of violating Polish airspace with military helicopters and announced it would increase its military presence on its eastern borders. Then on Aug. 2, the Romanian government said that Russia's increased attacks on Ukrainian ports by the Danube River (which separates Ukraine from Romania) were ''unacceptable'' and described them as ''war crimes.'' Poland (which shares land borders with both Russia and Ukraine) and Romania (which shares a land border with Ukraine and Black Sea access with Ukraine and Russia) are two of Europe's most hawkish countries with regard to Russia. They are some of the strongest supporters of sanctions against Moscow and an increased NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe, which fuels their fears and accusations of potential Russian aggression in the region.

Poland's relations with Belarus, a close Russian ally, have been tense for years. In mid-2021, Belarus encouraged and assisted migrants from Middle Eastern countries to enter Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, which these countries denounced as an act of hybrid warfare. Polish-Belarusian tensions escalated again in June 2023, when Minsk accepted to host mercenaries from the Wagner group after their failed mutiny in Russia. Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko later said that some Wagner fighters were keen to enter Poland and ''go on a trip to Warsaw and Rzeszow.'' On July 29, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said some 100 Wagner fighters were close to the Belarusian city of Grodno near the Polish border, describing the situation as ''increasingly dangerous.''
In mid-July, Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a U.N.-brokered agreement to allow Ukraine to export grains and oilseeds through its Black Sea ports. Since then, Russia has increased its missile attacks on Ukrainian ports at the mouth of the Danube River. On Aug. 2, Russia attacked Ukrainian grain ports and transport infrastructure at Izmail, a city on the Ukrainian-Romanian border.
 

In the case of Romania, Russian aggression is more likely to occur by accident than by design, which means that if it happens, Bucharest is likely to loudly denounce Moscow but ultimately seek de-escalation. Romania's NATO membership puts it under the military alliance's collective security umbrella. Russia thus knows that military aggression against Romania could trigger a war with NATO, which Moscow wants to avoid. This means that a potential Russian missile attack on the Romanian side of the Danube (which is possible, considering how close to the Ukraine-Romania border Russia's attacks are) is more likely to happen by accident than by design. If a Russian missile accidentally hits a Romanian target, Bucharest would likely protest loudly and denounce it as an act of aggression. Bucharest would also likely call its NATO partners for consultation under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty. However, this would unlikely lead to the triggering of the collective defense clause established in Article 5, as Romania, Western Europe and the United States do not want an open war with Russia — especially one caused by a comparatively minor incident, like a missile falling on the wrong side of the Danube. It would take a much more obvious and undeniably planned act of aggression (such as attacking major infrastructure well within Romanian territory) for NATO to consider using Article 5.

In November 2022, a missile struck a Polish village near the border with Ukraine, killing two people. Warsaw suggested Russia could be responsible and called for Article 4 consultations with its NATO partners. NATO's reaction to the incident was very cautious, as the alliance did not automatically accuse Russia and called for a proper investigation, which later concluded that the incident had probably been caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile fired by Ukrainian forces in response to Russia's air raids on Ukrainian energy infrastructure. This episode demonstrated NATO's caution regarding unexpected events and spillover from the war along NATO member states' borders.
In addition to the Black Sea, Romania is also concerned about the increased potential of Russian destabilization efforts in neighboring Moldova, which is home to the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria that hosts Russian troops. Romania supports Moldova's pro-EU government and worries that if pro-Russian political forces take control of the country, Moldova could turn into a Belarus-like situation. 
 

In Poland's case, aggression from Belarus or Russia has a higher chance of escalation because it is less likely to be an accident; however, Russia and NATO would still seek to avoid a war. Should Wagner forces, and especially Belarussian military forces, enter Poland's territory, the probability of escalation would be higher than  in the case of a missile accidentally hitting Romania, because  it would be the result of an active decision by Wagner, Minsk, Moscow or all three of them. A potential goal of such an incursion would be to fabricate a threat that would force Poland (and possibly other NATO states) to redirect their focus from helping Ukraine militarily to improving their own security. In the case of Wagner, Minsk and Moscow could still argue that the mercenaries acted without their consent, but in the case of the Belarussian military, there would be no such plausible deniability. In either case, Poland would almost certainly request Article 4 consultations with its NATO partners. Article 5 conversations would also be possible, though an incursion limited in scale and scope (such as Wagner or Belarussian troops briefly entering Poland's territory and then returning to Belarus) would be unlikely to trigger a military response from NATO because the alliance would probably not consider it severe enough to justify a war with Russia and/or Belarus. Still, an incursion into Poland could result in a confrontation with Polish border troops (particularly as Warsaw is increasing its military presence at the border), which would carry the risk of further escalation. Such a scenario would require a much stronger de-escalation effort from both sides, with a higher risk of events spinning out of control, even if a full-on NATO-Russia war remains improbable as a result.

Since the beginning of Russia's war in Ukraine, Poland has repeatedly accused Moscow of acts of unconventional aggression, including cyber attacks against Polish state institutions and private businesses, as well as disinformation campaigns. However, because Poland is unable to directly prove that the Russian government was behind these events, combined with the fact that so far, these acts of aggression have not disrupted any essential Polish infrastructure or resulted in casualties, this means that Poland and NATO do not see it as justification to trigger Article 5 and retaliate against Russia.

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Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman: the state of the war in Ukraine
« Reply #956 on: August 08, 2023, 06:19:18 AM »
August 8, 2023
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The State of the War in Ukraine
By: George Friedman
A month and a half ago, right after the attempted Wagner coup, there appeared to be chaos in Moscow, with the future of President Vladimir Putin in question. There were indications of some movement toward negotiations in the war. Some of those contacts were public. The director of the CIA, while on a visit to Ukraine, had an extended telephone conversation with the head of Russian intelligence. What was said is unknown, but it is unlikely that the two intelligence chiefs spoke without prior discussion at lower levels. Given the nature of this war, it's unlikely that contact between Russia and the United States, however trivial and ineffective, hasn’t been underway throughout.

The war appeared to have two limits. The United States would not deploy significant force in Ukraine or fire on Russian forces. The Russians would attack Ukrainian forces but not American supply depots in Poland. This meant that the war would not pit Russian and U.S. forces directly against each other, continuing the understanding in place since 1945, overwhelmingly but not absolutely honored. Strategic combat would be between Ukraine, supplied by the U.S., and Russia. That agreement holds and limits the global risks in the war. It may have just worked out that way, but I expect some explicit understanding was reached. The Wagner incident must have worried Washington as to who was in control in Moscow and raised questions about whether the understanding was still in place. The transfer of Wagner fighters to Belarus and to Poland’s border must have increased worries.

Two things became unlikely: that Russia would destroy the Ukrainian army and occupy Ukraine, and that Ukraine’s army would drive Russia out of Ukraine. The only logical step is a negotiated settlement. The question is what that settlement might consist of. The only logical settlement – on the surface, at least – is a division of Ukraine. One option might be that Donbas, full of ethnic Russians and on Russia’s border, is ceded to Moscow. But Ukraine cannot cede more – or even this – because it reasonably doesn’t trust the Russians not to base a force there and attack again in the future. The Russians will have a great deal of trouble accepting this. They have lost much in the war, and returning with only Donbas would be an insult to the dead and devastating to Putin. Ukraine must have a militarily defensible boundary and a shallow concession. Russia must validate the claim that it is a great power and can settle for far more than Ukraine can concede. Each side must make a powerful move to convince the other that a bad compromise is better than defeat.

I had thought that Russia might launch a powerful offensive designed to shatter the Ukrainian army and begin taking Ukrainian territory, forcing a settlement. I was surprised that it did not do so. I then realized that the Russian army does not have the ability to organize such an attack or to accept those kinds of casualties. Putin used Wagner as a separate force because he understood the limits of his enemy. When that blew up in his face, he realized what I missed: that his military was in no position to launch a final assault, and that he was in no position to negotiate.

Ukraine’s problem is that it does not control most of its logistical system and its prime supplier, the United States, has somewhat different if overlapping interests. The Ukrainians’ goal is to defeat the Russians and regain all of Ukraine. The American interest in defending Ukraine is both an end in itself and the means toward another end. The U.S. must keep Russia from moving west and creating a new and very costly cold war. The U.S. also wants to demonstrate to the world that it is in a position to militarily participate in Ukraine’s defense so long as Ukraine is prepared to defend itself. Another obvious object of the lesson is China and its periphery, particularly Taiwan. In a way, this is the final repudiation of the Vietnam model, where U.S. forces engaged in direct combat because the South Vietnamese were unable or unwilling to. In Ukraine, the U.S. avoided the body bags that came home during Vietnam and also showed the power of logistical support.

If it is accurate that Russia cannot launch a decisive ground attack, then it must do something indirectly to drive a wedge between Ukraine and the United States. The Kremlin knows that a full break is impossible, but a break on peace terms may well be possible. One Russian strategy that is failing is supporting a Vietnam-style antiwar movement in the United States. There is one, but it is not as powerful as the Vietnam antiwar strategy was.

An alternative is to drive a wedge between the U.S. and other allies. The U.S. needs allies in the region, and pleasing Ukraine while alienating them is unsupportable. The Russian decision to move vessels into the Black Sea achieved two things. Ukraine is a major exporter of grains, and cutting off those grains would cause problems in general and likely disaster in Africa. The Russians would hope to shape this into international demand for a settlement, more on Russian terms.

Their other goal would be to split NATO. The Black Sea includes NATO states like Romania. The presence of a small Russian fleet near its coast might force the Romanians to demand that a settlement be reached. Both of these are strategies of misdirection, used when direct power is not available. However, ships are very vulnerable these days – to air power, missiles and drones. Thus, the Ukrainians attacked Russian ships, sensing the importance not only of their exports but also of showing the Americans that they remain a serious force. The attacks also increase the sense of Russia's vulnerability.

There are, as I said, informal talks underway. The Russians must decide whether to double down on the Black Sea strategy, seek another flank to hit or accept a settlement that gains them little but does not humiliate them. It is a question of how far Putin’s hubris goes and how secure he is.

Crafty_Dog

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Germany out to screw Poland
« Reply #957 on: August 08, 2023, 01:30:48 PM »
August 8, 2023
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Daily Memo: Eastern European Machinations
Romania reportedly wants to help Moldova, and Germany reportedly wants to hurt Poland.
By: Geopolitical Futures
Moldova’s patron in Romania. The defense ministers of Romania and Moldova met on Monday in Chisinau, where they discussed regional security and ways Romania could help modernize Moldova’s army. (The government in Bucharest recently delivered bulletproof vests and tactical SUVs.) They also addressed Moldova’s potential accession to the Defense Ministers of Southeastern Europe, a defense platform under the aegis of NATO that Romania has chaired since July 1.

Poland warns against Germany. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Jablonsky said Germany plans to block strategic investments bound for his country, including those earmarked for the improvement of navigation on the Oder River, the expansion of the port in Swinoujscie, the Central Communication Port and its nuclear power plant. He said that Berlin will do so under the pretense of environmental concerns but that it’s really a matter of business – that Germany doesn’t want Poland as an economic competitor.



DougMacG

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Re: Belarus stealing Uke children?
« Reply #960 on: August 12, 2023, 07:43:58 PM »
War crime.

Crafty_Dog

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NRO: Euros not slacking on money for Ukraine
« Reply #961 on: August 15, 2023, 07:03:59 AM »


Which Countries Are Digging into Their Pockets to Help Ukraine?

On the menu today: I return from vacation just as the headline “President Trump indicted” runs for the fourth time in five months. Our Brittany Bernstein has the story about Trump’s indictment in Georgia, and our Andy McCarthy lays out how this particular set of criminal charges — 13 in all — could be the most enduring legal danger for Trump: “Because our federalist system makes the states primarily responsible for the conduct and policing of elections, Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis has an array of state laws that more directly target misconduct in connection with the electoral process. She may have an easier time proving that the same conduct was not only egregious but illegal.” Andy also points out that presidents have no authority to pardon state crimes — so neither Trump nor Ron DeSantis nor any other future Trump-friendly president could erase the conviction or the consequences.

I spent last week visiting three of America’s friendly Nordic allies, and it prompted me to look up some figures — revealing that, despite a lot of the rhetoric you hear, Europe hasn’t been dragging its feet in helping Ukraine. In fact, by several measures, some tiny European countries are digging deeper into their pockets than the arsenal of democracy is.

Europe’s Not-Insignificant Aid to Ukraine

The first argument against additional U.S. aid to Ukraine is often, “It isn’t our fight, so we shouldn’t be helping them at all” — an unpersuasive assertion that there is no U.S. interest at stake at all in Russia’s attempted brutal conquest of a U.S. ally on the doorstep of the NATO alliance, an act of wanton military aggression with consequences for world food and energy markets that has triggered a humanitarian crisis. The next most common objections are, “Europe should take the lead” and “Europe isn’t paying its fair share.”

Once you look at the numbers, those two arguments don’t hold much water, because Europe is, if not taking the lead, running alongside us, and certain European countries are paying much more than any reasonable definition of their “fair share.”

Make no mistake, continental Europe is much closer to the conflict than the U.S. and has even more to lose if Russia annexes all of Ukraine and brings its forces to the borders of NATO members Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania as well as Moldova, where Russia allegedly tried to stir up a coup earlier this year.

But if Europe as a whole isn’t quite taking the lead in assisting Ukraine, it isn’t lagging behind, either.

From the beginning of the war to May 31 of this year, the European Union countries, collectively, are just a bit behind the U.S., contributing, donating, or loaning nearly $75 billion to the beleaguered country. That figure includes combined military equipment and ammunition, financial assistance, and humanitarian aid. The American contribution in that period is just a bit higher, at $77.5 billion.

(All of the figures in today’s newsletter are from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy’s database and analysis and are converted from Euros to dollars at this weekend’s exchange rate. The Kiel Institute only measures government-to-government assistance, and does not count sums from private charities, churches, the Red Cross, or other international organizations.)

When you throw in the non-EU countries in Europe — such as the United Kingdom ($10.9 billion in total aid), Norway ($2.3 billion, more on them below), and Switzerland ($427 million), Europe actually outpaces the U.S. by roughly $88 billion to $77 billion.

In other words, Europeans are kicking in about $1.14 for every dollar the United States sends in military, financial, and economic aid to Ukraine. And despite the perception that the U.S. and the European Union are roughly economically equivalent, the U.S., as a whole, is a heck of a lot richer than the E.U. as a whole. According to the International Monetary Fund, the EU’s GDP is $17.8 trillion, while the U.S. GDP is about $26.8 trillion.

As for the argument “Europe isn’t paying its fair share,” that depends upon which countries you use to define “Europe,” and how you define “fair share.”

One key question is how you measure the aid provided to Ukraine — by the sum total of the military, humanitarian, and financial aid, or as a percentage of GDP. Countries with a lot of resources can reasonably be expected to spare more, and a small country with a small GDP, smaller tax revenue, and a smaller military necessarily has fewer arms and other resources to spare.

By the end of May, tiny Estonia had contributed $473 million in total aid, which ranks as the 21st-highest total out of all the countries in the world. But as a percentage of GDP — Estonia’s GDP is roughly $37 billion — that ranks first in the world.

NATO’s three Baltic members — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — are on the metaphorical front line in any conflict with Russia. Putin’s regime has been harassing those countries with cyberattacks and other non-kinetic forms of opposition for years, and no one in Europe felt particularly assured when China’s ambassador to France said in April that former Soviet countries don’t have “effective status in international law.” It’s not surprising that the Baltic countries see Ukraine’s fight as their fight. Latvia’s donations to Ukraine equal 1.09 percent of their GDP, and Lithuania’s equal almost 1 percent.

After the Baltic trio, Poland (seven-tenths of a percentage point of that country’s GDP) and Slovakia (six-tenths of a percentage point) rank fourth and fifth. The Nordic countries also rank near the top when their donations are compared to their countries’ GDP.

As noted on Twitter/X while I was away, in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Ukrainian flag is almost as ubiquitous as the Danish flag, visible at the city’s central train station; above an H&M; in front of the Saint Ansgar’s Cathedral; and above the Scandic Palace hotel, next to City Hall. For what it’s worth, I spotted a couple of Ukrainian flags while wandering around downtown Stockholm, Sweden, but none while wandering around downtown Oslo, Norway.

Denmark’s GDP is about $400 billion, which sounds like a lot, and by most measures, it is. If Denmark were an American state, its GDP would rank 15th, just behind Michigan and just ahead of Colorado. It would be absurd to expect Denmark’s total support for Ukraine to be comparable to that of the total contribution from the United States. But as a percentage of the country’s GDP, Denmark’s is higher than America’s.

As of May 31, Denmark ranks ninth overall in total aid to Ukraine, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy’s database and analysis, with $1.72 billion. That’s a bit more than a half a percentage point of Denmark’s GDP, ranking it sixth in the world. As a percentage of GDP, Denmark’s military contributions rank sixth in the world and its humanitarian contributions rank fourth in the world.

When it comes to aiding Ukraine, tiny Denmark is punching well above its weight.

You can see the Danish government’s summary of its aid here, although keep in mind that the site measures the aid in the local currency of the Danish Krone. Denmark has been a member of NATO since its founding.

For perspective, in the same period, the U.S. ranked first overall with the highest total value of donations of aid and equipment at $77 billion. But because our GDP is so much larger, that much larger sum is just three-tenths of 1 percentage point of our GDP — ranking us twelfth in the world. As a percentage of GDP, U.S. military contributions rank 15th in the world and our humanitarian contributions rank 18th in the world. Our financial commitments — which include budgetary aid to Ukraine’s Economic Support Fund and loans — rank sixth in the world in that category.

You can see the U.S. government’s summary of its aid to Ukraine here.

As of May 31, Sweden ranks tenth overall in total aid to Ukraine, according to the Kiel Institute’s database and analysis, with nearly $2 billion. That’s about three-tenths of 1 percent of Sweden’s GDP, ranking it 13th in the world. As a percentage of GDP, Sweden’s military contributions rank tenth in the world, and its humanitarian contributions rank 15th in the world.

You can see the Swedish government’s summary of its aid here, although keep in mind that figures are listed in the local currency of the Swedish krona. Sweden is in the final stretch of formally joining NATO.

As of May 31, Norway ranks eighth overall in total aid to Ukraine, according to the Kiel Institute, with nearly $2.3 billion in aid. That’s nearly one-half of 1 percent of Norway’s GDP, ranking it seventh in the world. As a percentage of GDP, Norway’s military contributions rank twelfth in the world, and its humanitarian contributions rank the same. You can see the Norwegian government’s summary of its aid here, although keep in mind that figures are listed in the local currency of the Norwegian kroner. Norway has been a member of NATO since its founding; many people forget that it shares a short stretch of border with Russia, above the Arctic Circle.

Germany, which has gotten a lot of grief for foot-dragging and delays in sending weapons systems to Ukraine, has now given $11.6 billion in total aid, which ranks it third in the world in total sums. The Germans rank second in the world in sending humanitarian aid, and are now up to second in military aid, which is laid out here.

Who’s straggling?

Considering how France has the seventh-largest economy in the world, one might expect France to rank a little higher than eleventh in total aid at $1.5 billion, and 28th as a percentage of GDP. France ranks tenth in humanitarian commitments, ninth in financial commitments, and 15th in military commitments. As a percentage of GDP, France ranks 24th in humanitarian aid, 16th in financial aid, and 27th in military aid. You can find a list of some of France’s forms of aid here, which range from MLRS rocket launchers to Crotale air-defense systems to light bulbs to a mobile DNA-analysis laboratory to more than 20,000 Ukrainians enrolled in the French education system.

Correspondingly, Italy has the eighth-largest economy in the world but ranks significantly lower in aid to Ukraine in each category: twelfth highest in total aid at $1.46 billion and 26th as a percentage of GDP. The Italian government summarizes its efforts to help Ukraine here.

And then there’s the government of Hungary, which has not only not given much from its own resources, but has at times blocked or impeded additional European Union assistance to Ukraine. Hungary has donated $51 million according to the Kiel Institute. Hungary has a smaller GDP than you might expect — ranking behind Peru, Iraq, Kazakhistan, and Algeria — and yet Hungary’s donation is only two-tenths of 1 percent of that sum.

The Kiel Institute’s next update of its figures is scheduled for September 7.

This does not mean that there are no limits on what the U.S. can reasonably and safely send to Ukraine. As this newsletter mentioned back in April, there are four weapons systems that the U.S will require a long time to restock to pre-war levels. At the “surge” or prioritized production rate, it will take two and a half years to restock the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) mobile-artillery system and vehicles, four years to restock at least one category of 155 millimeter shells, five and a half years to restock the Javelin anti-tank-missile stockpile, and six and a half years to restock the Stinger air-defense-missile stockpile. It is reasonable for the U.S. to tell Ukraine that there are particular weapons systems that are in limited supply and can no longer be spared because of defense needs elsewhere.

Beyond that, the U.S. has a lot of top-of-the-line military supplies lying around, unused. For example, the U.S. Air Force has more than 1,000 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft in its inventory.

Back in January, President Biden announced that the U.S. would send 31 M1A1 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine. The first batch was approved for shipment last week, and should arrive in Ukraine in early autumn. The U.S. Army is believed to have about 2,500 Abrams tanks in various versions, with an additional 3,700 in storage.

In a lot of circumstances, America’s European allies can be justifiably accused of skimping on defense spending, downplaying threats on the international stage, and blithely assuming that Uncle Sam will bail them out if the situation gets really bad. (It’s sort of the tradition of the 20th century.) But in the circumstances of getting military, financial, and humanitarian aid across the border to a pro-Western, democratically elected government at risk of being annexed by Russia, a lot of our European allies are really stepping up to the plate — most notably the Baltic and Nordic countries.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Belarus reaches out?
« Reply #962 on: August 15, 2023, 07:10:13 AM »
Second

Belarus Reaches Out to Poland and the EU
By: George Friedman

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko made a speech last week in which he appeared to be reaching out to the West. Belarus has been a close Russian ally for years; it might even be considered a satellite. On several occasions, the Russians have used political influence to stabilize Lukashenko’s presidency. After the attempted coup by the Wagner Group in June, Lukashenko gave the group, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s apparent approval, refuge in Belarus – although there is evidence that many of these troops have left the country. Regardless of their whereabouts, Lukashenko is closely tied to Russia.

The important point is that Lukashenko also proposed a new economic direction for Belarus, saying:

“Now we make money primarily in the East: in Russia, China. But we must not discard contacts with the high-tech West. They are nearby, the European Union is our neighbor. And we should maintain contacts with them. We are ready for this, but there should be due consideration for our interests. Believe me, the time will come (using your professional terms, I would say that now we are going through the period of turbulence), and in 2024-2025 there will be serious changes in the world.”

Lukashenko also said that Belarus needs to talk to the Poles and that he told the prime minister to contact them. “If they want, we can talk, patch up our relations,” he said. “We are neighbors, and this is something you cannot choose, neighbors are given by God.” Poland's deputy foreign minister responded by saying that if Belarus wants to have good relations with Poland, it should stop attacks on their shared border and release Polish prisoners from Belarusian prisons.

On the surface, Lukashenko's comments look like a careful attempt to move Belarus away from its heavy dependence on Russia and to balance that relationship with the EU and, surprisingly, Poland. Minsk and Warsaw have been hostile toward one another, massing troops on their border. The problem is that it is hard to imagine that Russia would be willing to tolerate this opening to Poland, given Poland’s position on Ukraine, its aid to Kyiv and its willing service as an arms depot for the United States. An opening to the EU might be seen as advantageous to Russia since Moscow also wants stronger ties with the bloc.

Belarus’ outreach to Poland opens another possibility. The Ukrainian-Russian war is appearing increasingly to be a frozen conflict, one that neither side can win but also one that will be difficult to settle after all the bloodshed on each side. Ending the war without something resembling victory would be extremely problematic. At the same time, the war cannot simply go on, as each side has limits in manpower, weapons and public support.

Given this, Lukashenko’s expressed desire for closer relations with the European Union and, more importantly, Poland may be something that Moscow encouraged. Belarus is very close to Russia and has had a role in the war, however minor. It might be possible for the EU to work with Belarus, and from there the road to Moscow might be easier to take. The Poles are a different question. Their hostility to Belarus is substantial, and Poland might demand unmanageable concessions from Minsk. Still, there is a desire in Europe as elsewhere for an end to the war, and the EU may see Belarus’ knock on the door as a way to improve relations with Russia. As for Poland, there are many in Europe who see Warsaw’s stance on the war as unique to Poland and its geographic position, and not in their own interest to follow. They might reward Poland or apply pressure on it to modify its position.

My tendency is to regard this as a gesture by Lukashenko, who might be trying to play the role of statesman. But I have to take into account that Belarus owes its position and potentially Lukashenko’s life to Putin. And Lukashenko’s support in Belarus is unclear. It is hard to imagine him taking a diplomatic initiative that isn’t approved by Moscow. So my gut reaction aside, I have to be open to the possibility that this is somehow an opening to Europe, with the overture to Poland being a first step in moderating its position on the war. You would not expect a direct approach, but it is clear that all players are getting tired of the war. That includes the U.S., where the 2024 elections will have a major impact on the U.S. approach to the conflict. So, Lukashenko’s bewildering approach may be a Russian-supported attempt to gauge European war weariness. If it is rejected, then it is only Belarus that will be embarrassed. If this seems complex, it is because the situation is very complex, and we are approaching the time when the sides will try subtle approaches. Or this is Lukashenko’s own attempt to secure Belarusian independence from Russia, which I really can’t buy.


Crafty_Dog

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NRO: Poland and the Uke War
« Reply #964 on: August 22, 2023, 02:12:19 PM »
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Poland’s Pivotal Role

On the menu today: For the next couple of days, the Morning Jolt is going to have a different format and focus, as I travel to some far-flung corners of the world, aiming to give you, and myself, a clearer perspective on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and how that conflict has affected global energy markets, food markets, and political realities. I realize that everyone else in the U.S. political world is focused on this week’s Republican presidential-primary debate, asking those hot-button questions like, “What is Doug Burgum going to say next?” and, “So did Francis Suarez qualify for this thing, or not?” and, “Wait, which one is Doug Burgum again?” But while all of America is on the edge of its seat, brimming with suspense over what Asa Hutchinson is going to say, the world keeps turning — and perhaps no country in NATO is playing a more pivotal role in the effort to help Ukraine than Poland. This week, I’m looking at Poles, not polls.

Pole Positions

Krakow, Poland — Russia and the U.S. NATO ally Poland are not at war. But they’re not really at peace, either.

The roads and railways running through Poland are the transportation routes for more than 80 percent of the military hardware delivered to Ukraine. Last year, Poland agreed to open up five additional access points for trucks on the border with Ukraine, doubling the cargo-traffic capacity between the two countries. The Russian government was always likely to eventually deem those routes worthwhile targets for sabotage and disruption.

Last week, the Washington Post revealed that the Polish government has found evidence that Russia’s military-intelligence agency, the GRU, recruited refugees from Eastern Europe and tried to get them to hide tracking devices in military cargo, and then ordered them to derail trains carrying weapons to Ukraine. An official with Poland’s Internal Security Agency — the Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego — told the paper that certain recruits had been assigned to carry out arson attacks and an assassination.

Beyond the roads and rails, the single most important hub of activity for getting both military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine is Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport, about 60 miles from the Ukrainian border and about 100 miles east of the city from which I’m writing this newsletter. U.S. and allied planes, including C-17 Globemaster, A400M Atlas, and C-130 Hercules cargo planes, regularly land and unloading weapons and supplies. The runways are protected by Patriot-missile batteries, visible from the road to the airport; while it may have the equivalent of a NATO air base operating on its runways, the airport still offers civilian flights to Warsaw and Gdansk.

The Russian government won’t bomb or attack any of these sites directly, but its leaders sure as hell would love to figure out some way to cause disruptions here without leaving any fingerprints.

In addition to the accusations of attempted sabotage, Russian cyberattacks have targeted Polish news sites, government and military entities, and the country’s tax-service website. One study concluded that since the Russian invasion began, Poland has been targeted by cyberattacks more often than any other country in Europe.

Poland is about as close to the Russia–Ukraine war as you can get without being in it, both geographically and psychologically. (Every now and then the war spills over, as in November 2022 when a Ukrainian air-defense missile crossed the border and struck a Polish grain plant, killing two people.) Spending the entire Cold War under the boot of the Soviet Union left the Poles with a keen sense of the threat posed by Russian military aggression — and how hard it can be to regain independence and freedom once it is lost.

Just a few days ago, Zbigniew Rau, Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared on Twitter:

Europe needs to do more for its security to repel any conventional aggression in the future. We must pull all allies in this direction and effectively boost defense spending. Let’s establish a “coalition of the delivering” within NATO. A group of allies leading by example and spending at least 2 percent on defense. You can count on Poland in this much-needed endeavor! I look forward to seeing every NATO member state meeting this requirement.

If all U.S. allies were like the Poles, we would have less to worry about.

Poland sent $4.5 billion in military, economic, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine from the start of the war until May 31, 2023, according to the Kiel Institute’s Ukraine Support Tracker. That ranks the Poles sixth in the world by total amount of support given, and fourth in the world by support given as a percentage of GDP.

One of the points I hadn’t mentioned in last week’s discussion of foreign governments’ aid to Ukraine is the number of refugees taken in by each country. The Kiel Institute numbers are only measuring direct government-to-government aid. As of April this year, Poland had taken in 1.56 million refugees, more than Germany (a little over 1 million), the Czech Republic (about a half million), Italy (171,000), Spain (168,000), the United Kingdom (164,000), France (118,000), Slovakia (111,000), and Romania (110). Keep in mind, Slovakia and Romania share borders with Ukraine.

Lest you be told that the United States is being overrun by Ukrainian refugees, from February 2022 to April of this year, the U.S. accepted 271,000 Ukrainian refugees. (More than half of the nearly 124,000 applications filed by Americans seeking to sponsor Ukrainians fleeing the war in their homeland have come from households in just five states: New York, Illinois, California, Washington State, and Florida.) In other words, the U.S. has taken in roughly 17 percent of the refugees that Poland has welcomed.

Technically, Russia claims it has taken in 2.8 million Ukrainian refugees, but it’s tough to verify those numbers and figure out how many are actually Ukrainians who have been forcibly abducted to Russian soil.

The influx of refugees into Poland since early 2022 has not spurred a broad backlash from native Poles; by and large, Poles see the Ukrainians as beneficial to their country:

The survey by Ipsos for OKO.press and TOK FM, published today, found that 62 percent of Poles agree it would be “good for Poland if Ukrainian refugees were to stay for many years”. Only 27 percent disagreed. There are currently estimated to be over a million refugees from Ukraine in Poland.

In five polls conducted by Ipsos on this subject since May 2022, between 57 percent and 69 percent of Poles have declared a positive attitude towards the long-term stay of refugees from Ukraine in Poland, with only 24 percent to 30 percent expressing negative views.

Considering that other surveys have found Poles less enthusiastic about immigrants from outside Europe, the Poles may well see the Ukrainians as culturally like themselves and a good fit for the existing Polish culture. Lviv, the sixth-largest city in Ukraine, which sits not far from the Polish border, was part of Poland for stretches of its history.

A new survey indicates that in the past year, Polish support for assisting Ukraine has declined somewhat, from 83 percent to 65 percent. It is probably worth noting that those least enthusiastic about helping Ukraine also do not seem enthusiastic about voting. “Neutrality is also more likely to be desired by those who are politically less engaged — for example, mentioning in our survey that they do not intend to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections.”

And those parliamentary elections are now less than two months away. Polish president Andrzej Duda announced parliamentary elections would be held October 15, with both the 460-seat lower house of parliament and the 100-seat senate at stake. Polls currently indicate that Duda’s Law and Justice Party, the right-of-center party which has governed Poland since 2015, is on pace to win the most seats but is likely to fall short of an outright majority in parliament. Duda and his party are looking for an unprecedented third term. It is likely that Duda will be running on a national-security-themed message, touting his defense buildup. He recently oversaw the country’s largest military parade in Warsaw since the Cold War and declared, “The goal of this huge modernization is to equip Poland’s armed forces and create such a defense system that no one ever dares attack us, that Polish soldiers will never need to fight.”

The party that is currently on pace to win the second most seats is Koalicja Obywatelska, or KO, the “Civic Coalition,” a mish-mash of center-left, center-right, and center-center parties all unified in their opposition to the Law and Justice Party.

The party that is currently expected to win the third-most seats is Konfederacja (Confederation), described as a coalition of nationalist, far-right-populist parties.

Some Western observers worry that Konfederacja will throw a monkey-wrench into the results and win enough seats to end up in a kingmaker position.

Mikolaj Bronert of the German Marshall Fund writes:

Konfederacja is even more resolute in its negative view of Polish Atlanticism. Konfederacja Member of Parliament Robert Winnicki has argued that the US military presence in Poland demonstrates the country’s “vassalization”. Similarly, Konfederacja’s leaders have taken the lead in criticizing the volume of Polish military assistance to Ukraine. Winnicki has remarked that NATO’s eastern-flank countries should not be the ones to champion military support for Ukraine. Instead, allies that “are not located next to the Russian border” should play a greater role. While in principle Konfederacja’s leadership is not against military support for Ukraine, the scope of Polish support is too ambitious in their view and will lead to the “demilitarization of Poland”. Winnicki has stated that “Poland must support Ukraine without weakening its own defensive capabilities.”

Konfederacja is also staunchly anti-Ukrainian in its rhetoric. Ever since Russia annexed Crimea, politicians affiliated with the coalition have attempted to justify Russia’s actions. Janusz Korwin-Mikke, one of Konfederacja’s frontmen, argues that Poland should recognize the annexation of the peninsula. He is also not persuaded of Russia’s threat to Europe, stating that “Ukraine is Poland’s enemy, not Russia.”

Bronert writes that while Polish governments have been politically diverse over the past three decades, there’s been a broad consensus about supporting other Eastern European countries in moving in a more Western-democratic direction, and maintaining strong ties to the U.S. and its allies. But “Konfederacja is the first political entity with a realistic prospect of breaking this 30-year-old consensus.”

Two referenda will also appear on the ballot along with the parliamentary seats. One will ask Polish voters whether they “support the admission of thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa under the forced relocation mechanism imposed by the European bureaucracy.” Voters will also be asked whether they support the dismantling of a wall recently built along the border with Belarus.

By and large, Ukraine and Poland have been steadfast allies since the beginning of the war, although there is a continuing disagreement about Ukrainian grain being sent through Poland. Last month, Russians bombed the port facilities in Odessa, Ukraine, putting an exclamation point on Putin’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a wartime deal that was supposed to enable Ukraine’s exports to reach many countries facing the threat of hunger. Ukraine’s agriculture minister said the port facilities would take a year to repair.

The first complication is that moving the grain by truck or train cannot really replace the scale, speed, and efficiency of container ships. (Readers of the short story Saving the Devil know that eastern Europe and central Europe have different widths of train tracks, and the railway gauge in Ukraine is about ten centimeters wider than the gauge in Poland. All of the grain would have to be moved into new containers, or the containers moved onto train cars with a narrower base.) The second complication is that Polish farmers fear that Ukrainian grain could flood the market and bring prices down, and the Polish government intends to keep a ban on the import of such grain in place when the rest of the European Union lifts its bans next month.

Before Russia ended the Black Sea Grain Initiative by blowing up the ports, the program had exported almost 33 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs — mostly corn, to make room for the incoming wheat crop, and mostly moving on to developing countries such as Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, and Djibouti. The U.S. is in talks to get the grain out through the Danube River by October.

ADDENDUM: One of my traveling companions just mentioned the news that U.S. citizens should leave Belarus immediately, because Lithuania is closing its border. Hey, I picked a great week to be out here, right?

Crafty_Dog

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Nervous neighbors change doubter's mind
« Reply #965 on: August 28, 2023, 03:27:45 PM »
New Friends Changed My Mind About Ukraine
A visit to Finland and the Baltic states helped me appreciate the Russian threat.
By Dave Seminara
Aug. 28, 2023 5:42 pm ET


Pekka Veteläinen and Anna Saarela are tough Finns who heat their home with firewood and make a living off Russian bears. They built five bear-viewing cabins in the taiga, roughly half a mile from the border and Russia’s Paanajärvi National Park—land that was part of Finland before World War II. Business is slow this year because of the Ukraine war, they told me, as we watched half a dozen massive brown bears scavenge in the lake. Pekka used to believe Finland should remain neutral. “But our opinion about NATO changed overnight with the invasion,” he said.

My family spent a month this summer traveling in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Everywhere we went, from the Arctic Circle to the Curonian Spit, pro-Ukraine and anti-Russian sentiment was rampant. In Cēsis, Latvia, our host, Zigmunds Rutkovskis, proudly told us that his daughter was learning every important language, “but not Russian.” At the local tennis club, head pro Valdis Libietis told us the club had taken in a Ukrainian soldier who lost his leg in the war and was now living above the clubhouse. “It’s our duty to help,” he said.

From Helsinki to Vilnius, Ukrainian flags are ubiquitous. In Riga, Latvia’s capital, they’re on every bus and tram car. Since the war, tensions between the country’s ethnic Russian minority and its Latvian majority have bubbled over. Lawmakers passed a law this year whereby the vehicles of drunk drivers are now shipped to Ukraine for use by the military and hospitals. Latvia’s Parliament last year amended the country’s immigration law to require Russian citizens living in the country to pass a Latvian language test.

In Jaunpils, Latvia, where you can stay in a 700-year-old castle at bargain prices, a young woman operating a medieval-games business told us that a pro-Russian singer was booted out of the country’s annual song competition. Since the war, she said, she and many other Latvians have refused to speak Russian. “When we hear it, we just shrug and pretend like we can’t understand them,” she said.

In Vilnius, our guide, Lina, showed us the city’s stunning Old Town and proudly told us that her nation of fewer than three million people raised €5 million ($5.4 million) in three days to buy an advanced military drone for Ukraine. “We understand what the Ukrainians are going through better than anyone,” she said. We saw evidence of Lithuania’s resolve at the Hill of Crosses, a pilgrimage site where believers have left hundreds of thousands of crosses. The Soviets bulldozed the site in 1961, 1973 and 1975—burning thousands of wooden crosses and confiscating metal ones for scrap. Many people were arrested, but each time the Soviets removed the crosses, more appeared until the Soviets eventually gave up. Perhaps this is a lesson for us today as we deal with Russian aggression: The war in Ukraine must be won on the battlefield, but also through small acts of resistance.

Each country we visited has barred Russian tourists. Tourism is already down in the region because of the war, but the countries believe it’s worth the economic pain to send a message to the Kremlin. Only two others have followed their lead: Poland and the Czech Republic. Meanwhile a host of other countries are actively courting Russian tourists. Iran and Cuba recently signed tourism pacts with Russia. Sri Lanka, Morocco and Thailand plan to launch direct flights there. India, Myanmar and Oman recently held meetings with Russia to discuss tourism.

Meantime Americans can still trade with and visit countries confronting Russian tyranny or those enabling it. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow no longer offers nondiplomatic visas—for reasons unrelated to the war. Since the invasion, however, the U.S. has issued more than 60,000 tourist visas to Russian citizens. Perhaps we should ban Russian tourists who aren’t coming to visit an American citizen or do business here.

Ukraine has become a partisan issue. Before my trip, I was receptive to arguments from nationalists who think we should scale back aid to Ukraine. But not now. It isn’t only Ukraine counting on us to have their backs.

I don’t know the best way to confront Russia. But I do know that now, when I think about Russia and Ukraine, I’m not focused on Burisma, Hunter Biden or Ukrainian oligarchs. I worry more about my new friends living in Vladimir Putin’s shadow.

Mr. Seminara is a former diplomat and author of “Mad Travelers: A Tale of Wanderlust, Greed & the Quest to Reach the Ends of the Earth.”

Crafty_Dog

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WT: Poles warn of Russian hybrid war
« Reply #966 on: August 30, 2023, 06:56:41 AM »
Poles warn of Russia’s plans for hybrid warfare

Moscow’s actions aim to threaten NATO countries

BY GUY TAYLOR THE WASHINGTON TIMES WARSAW, POLAND | Russia is expanding its use of “hybrid warfare” — including cyberattacks, border disruptions and disinformation campaigns — in a bid to destabilize NATO’s eastern flank, the Polish government’s top national security official warned on Tuesday.

With Moscow’s conventional military bogged down in Ukraine after 18 months of war, the Kremlin is increasingly bent on sowing regional chaos, said Jacek Siewiera, the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau.

Western European nations, he added, should be more vigilant about the “broad spectrum of activities” Moscow is launching with help from ally Belarus to intimidate front-line NATO members such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, for supporting Ukraine. The threat exists even though NATO and Russian forces have carefully avoided direct conflict.

“No one in NATO should be convinced that the hybrid threat doesn’t affect his life,” Mr. Siewiera, who also serves as secretary of state in the government of Polish President Andrzej Duda.

“In Europe, in France, Spain in many other countries, if they are not facing hybrid threats right now, I’m sure that they cannot exclude it in the nearest future,” Mr. Siewiera told a group of international journalists visiting Poland on a trip sponsored by the Polish Foreign Ministry.

His comments coincide with weeks of rising tensions between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government and NATO’s easternmost member nations, where fears have swirled that the war in Ukraine could spread.

Poland has deployed thousands of troops to its border with Belarus. Polish military and security officials openly characterize Belarus as the Kremlin’s pawn.

“We assess that Belarus is nothing more than just a tool in the hands of Russians,” Gen. Wieslaw M. Kukula, the commander general of Poland’s Armed Forces, said Tuesday.

The unease between Warsaw and Minsk has risen dramatically since the death of Russian Wagner Mercenary Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and other top company officials in a private plane crash last week.

Mr. Prigozhin had relocated a large contingent of Wagner mercenaries to a site in Belarus as part of a deal to end his abortive uprising against Russian President Vladimir Putin in late June. The Lukashenko government has said it hopes to use the Wagner forces for Belarus’ own security interests.

With Mr. Prigozhin gone, it is unclear who will take command of the mercenaries.

Gen. Kukula said Tuesday there has already been an uptick in provocations from the Belarusian side of the border, including the use of lasers pointed at Polish border forces’ eyes. He did not say specifically who inside Belarus was using the tactic.

Russia has for years sought a military advantage over the U.S. and its allies through the use of hybrid warfare — an approach often credited to Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces.

In 2013, the general published a journal article now widely considered the strategic foundation for the Kremlin’s subversion policies in the years since. The “Gerasimov Doctrine of Hybrid Warfare” blends conventional and unconventional warfare, essentially expanding military battlefield options infinitely.

“In the 21st century we have seen a tendency toward blurring the lines between the states of war and peace,” the general wrote. “Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template. The very ‘rules of war’ have changed.”

U.S. national security experts have anticipated a surge in Moscow’s use of hybrid warfare for months, particularly since January, when Mr. Putin tapped Gen. Gerasimov to personally take command of all Russian forces in Ukraine.

Apart from the border tensions, Polish security officials say there is no doubt Russia is driving the hybrid warfare campaign, and that other tactics are already being used inside Poland, the key staging ground for much of the NATO equipment being provided to Ukraine.

Poland has “become a playground of Russian spy games,” one counterintelligence official told the visiting press group Tuesday.

Officials said Polish security authorities have detained 16 people in recent months on suspicion of involvement in a Russian espionage ring operating inside the NATO country. The ring’s key mission was to monitor Polish military facilities and track road and rail routes for NATO equipment moving across the border into Ukraine.

At the same time, the officials said, Russia and Belarus are pushing a “full-fledged propaganda campaign” to undermine Poland-Ukraine relations and amplify domestic divisions ahead of Poland’s October parliamentary elections.

“We are in the preelection time, it’s very tense,” said one of the offi cials. “This hybrid war against Poland will continue, ... especially during the election period.”

Crafty_Dog

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GPF:
« Reply #967 on: August 31, 2023, 06:28:16 PM »
Failing to deliver. EU countries will purchase record volumes of liquified natural gas from Russia this year, Russian media reported, despite Western promises to reduce energy imports from Moscow. In the first seven months of this year, EU imports of Russian LNG grew by 40 percent from the same period in 2021, making Russia the bloc's second-largest fuel supplier after the United States. In that time, the EU accounted for 52 percent of Russia’s LNG exports.

Lukashenko on Wagner. Belarus will remove forces from Russia’s Wagner Group when the Baltic states expel foreign military personnel from their territories, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said. Lukashenko argued that demands from Poland and the Baltic countries that Minsk expel Wagner fighters were "stupid" considering that Belarus' neighbors were massing more troops on their borders.

Crafty_Dog

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NRO: Moldova (Transnitia)
« Reply #968 on: September 01, 2023, 07:14:19 AM »
NR PLUS MEMBER FULL VIEW
The Spectacularly Strange Land of ‘Mini-Russia’

On the menu today: I have departed Ukraine and asked God to bless and protect its people as they endure this brutal war. (Then again, maybe we could give God a little help by sending some more air-defense systems.) My traveling companion and I crossed the border into Moldova, and we turned our attention to another contested stretch of land in this region. Readers, I know the current tensions surrounding Transnistria are foremost in your mind . . .

. . . I know the current tensions surrounding Transnistria have regularly been on your mind . . .

. . . I know the current tensions surrounding Transnistria have occasionally . . .

. . . Okay, when I mentioned I would be traveling to Transnistria, one of my family members thought I had made up the name. Who among us can find Transnistria on a map? Trick question! You won’t find Transnistria labeled on a lot of maps, because in the eyes of almost the entire world, it’s not a real country, it’s just a rogue region of Moldova that aspires to be a colony of Moscow. Come with me to “mini-Russia,” a spectacularly strange little stretch of land where hammers and sickles abound like the Cold War never ended.

Welcome to the Least-Visited ‘Country’ in Europe, Comrade!

Leave it to me to spend a week or so in Ukraine, a country currently being invaded by the Russian army, and then agree to take a day trip to Transnistria, one of the few countries in the world that still has a hammer and sickle on its flag, a place the New York Times accurately labeled, “a mini-Russia.”

I should say, “country,” with air quotes, because as far as almost all the rest of the world is concerned, Transnistria is just a rebellious region of Moldova that insists upon calling itself the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. The only three other places on Earth that recognize Transnistria as an independent country are Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which are Russian-influenced disputed territories in Georgia), and Artsakh (which is a Russian-influenced disputed territory in Azerbaijan).

You probably noticed the pattern there. Transnistria is yet another Russian-influenced “frozen conflict” zone and disputed territory, a sliver of land in a narrow valley stretching north–south along the bank of the Dniester river, with Moldova on one side and Ukraine on the other. It is regularly described as the least-visited country — er, “country” — in Europe. And it is tiny; Transnistria’s thin strip of claimed territory adds up to 1,607 square miles. For comparison, the state of Delaware is 1,948 square miles.

Transnistria actually has two official flags. The first has a yellow hammer and sickle in the upper left corner against a red background, like the old Soviet flag, but with a big green stripe across it, as if someone had hastily attempted to turn it into a holiday logo for Christmas Communists. The second official flag is a duplicate of the current Russian flag, but with a slightly different ratio, 1:2 instead of 2:3. In other words, to the naked eye, this territory is covered with flags that are indistinguishable from those of Russia, and that is not an accident.

If Transnistria is not Russia, a lot of its citizens sure as heck want it to be. That second co-official flag is atop the parliament building and just about every other government building. A giant statue of Lenin stands in front of the parliament building, which is just a few blocks from Lenin Street. Logos, seals, and emblems with the hammer and sickle are everywhere. The country’s currency is the Transnistrian ruble.

There are Russian soldiers who serve as “peacekeepers” at the border checkpoints. (For the first time on this trip, I saw Russian armored personnel carriers that were in one piece.) Transnistria is reportedly home to 1,500 Russian soldiers, although it seems like it has been a while since anyone has published a reliable head count.

There are no photos in today’s Morning Jolt, because I didn’t bring my phone into Transnistria. The U.S. State Department lists Transnistria under the level-three warning — “reconsider travel” — just below level four, “do not travel.” The easiest way to avoid having any Russian-aligned government official or soldier going through my phone was to not have it there. You can find plenty of pictures of what I saw on the internet.

As the Cold War approached its end in 1989, most Moldovans began rejecting Soviet-imposed changes, passing laws that made Romanian the official language, adopted the Latin alphabet and rejected the use of Cyrillic, and beginning to embrace its own identity. But groups in communities along the eastern border still felt great affection for Russia and the Russian language and rejected those changes. Tensions grew until open shooting between the two sides broke out in March 1992, and Russia intervened, first by assisting the Transnistrian side and by brokering a ceasefire that left the tiny sliver of land controlled by the Transnistrians with a form of quasi-independence. Not much has changed in the 30 years since.

For all the Transnistrian Soviet nostalgia, the good news is that, at least for now, there’s little sign of any overt animosity between the Moldovan people and the Transnistrians. People travel back and forth across the border posts every day without incident. The Transnistrian government has stated it has no interest in getting involved in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

That is good, but the war is being fought on the Moldovan doorstep, Russians regularly fire missiles through Molodvan airspace, and missile debris keeps landing on the Moldovan side of the border. Last month, Russia sent drones to attack the port of Reni, which is about a mile from the Moldovan border and just across the Danube River from Romania. Our Moldovan guide for our journey to Transnistria told us that he worries a great deal about the war spilling over the border into his country.

Earlier this year, the Moldovan president, Maia Sandu, accused Vladimir Putin of attempting to overthrow the government by fomenting violence through foreign actors and internal criminal groups. Intriguingly, our guide asserted that this was not a big deal and he didn’t worry about it.

One major problem surrounding Transnistria is that Moldova would like to join the European Union someday, and when I say someday, I mean the government has set an explicit and public goal of 2030. The country has road signs that say, “Moldova EU 2030,” and pictures of the EU flag are in the windows of the offices of its border posts.

Moldova submitted its application to the EU last year and was granted “candidate status.” Countries that want to be in the European Union must have “the capacity to effectively implement the rules, standards and policies that make up the body of EU law and adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.” A country’s government can’t do that if it has a rogue breakaway region that makes its own laws and uses its own currency.

Earlier this month, Sandu said of the breakaway region, “Perhaps, when Ukraine wins this war and returns its territories, a geopolitical opportunity will appear that will allow us to settle the conflict peacefully.” Eh, maybe, but that day seems far in the future. No one I spoke to in Ukraine expected the war to end anytime soon.

Our tour guide, a cheerful and gregarious Moldovan who had no ill will toward Transnistrians, mentioned he had seen a pair of Hungarian tourists the previous day and recognized their car parked in front of the Lenin statue. A few minutes later, we ran into them in the nearby “Memorial of Glory,” which features memorials to the soldiers of World War II, the Transnistria War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which occurred about 300 miles away.

The Hungarians’ tour guide, upon realizing I was American, felt the need to tell me that the Ukrainians were bombing themselves. If you’ve been reading this newsletter over the past two weeks, you know that I wanted to sock him, but I had enough good sense to recognize the headline “Transnistrian tour guide repeats insane Russian propaganda, American journalist attempts to strangle him” would be bad for everyone. I stared back in disbelief and confusion, and then pretended I didn’t understand him, telling him we were going to walk around the city for a bit. This confused him sufficiently, and after a few awkward moments, we all said goodbye and went our separate ways.

If you wanted me to get the Russian perspective on the war, there it is: Russia isn’t bombing the Ukrainians, the Ukrainians are bombing themselves.

I mean, even Alex Jones has his limits.

My traveling companion and I had lunch at USSR Canteen, which I can only describe as an effort to create a version of the Hard Rock Café chain, but for Josef Stalin. Busts of Lenin are everywhere, the walls were plastered with old Soviet art and newspaper headlines, old Soviet military uniforms, and portraits of Soviet leaders, and the television was showing some Russian soap opera.

I could see some people, particularly NR readers, objecting to dining in a Soviet Union-themed restaurant. If you believe the crimes of the Soviet state were anywhere close to the crimes of the Nazis, you could argue that a USSR-themed restaurant is as offensive as a restaurant whose décor and menu is meant to evoke the Third Reich. (We have only had Amazon plaster Nazi-style ads and posters all over a New York City subway car to promote The Man in the High Castle.)

I see the existence of the USSR Canteen as an example of the ultimate triumph of capitalism. Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev — they all thought they were going to conquer the world and move human history in a new direction. Today, they’re just kitsch. Sure, a themed restaurant using their faces and iconography is in business, but the Soviet Union itself went out of business 30 years ago. (I do recognize, however, the argument that Putin is attempting to recreate the Soviet Union as a gangster state, without all of that economically debilitating communism.) Soviet Communism is now just a schtick for a themed restaurant — just another version of Planet Hollywood, Rainforest Café, or the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. It’s a gimmick for monetizing the nostalgia of the elderly who associate communism with the good old days. Of course, to the extent those days were good for those elderly, it’s not because Moldova was part of the Soviet Union. They felt good because they themselves were young back then.

(I would have loved to trash the Commie cuisine, but darn it, the roast chicken and chicken soup were pretty good.)

How narrow is Transnistria? Our guide drove us north out of the city, into farmland, and pointed to a small hill, explaining that Ukraine’s territory starts on the other side of that hill. We turned to a road to our left, and headed westward, and within three or four minutes we were at the border post to Moldova. Of course, to almost all the world, we were in Moldova the whole time.

One other wrinkle, over on the other side of Moldova, is the issue of potential unification with Romania. (I’ll bet you never realized Moldova was such a hotbed of international intrigue.)

There are a considerable number of Moldovans would like to be part of Romania. There’s a lot of shared culture, language, and history between the two countries, and for Moldovans who would like the benefits of EU and NATO membership, this would be like killing two birds with one stone. According to a 2021 poll, around 44 percent of Moldovans support unification. That’s not a majority, but it’s not that far from it.

As American citizens, the U.S. Constitution protects our right to never have to care about the Eurovision contest, a sort of continental musical Olympics that gets wrapped up in a great deal of national pride. Yes, I know it launched or advanced the careers of Abba, Olivia Newton John, Celine Dion, and Julio Iglesias. The only reason I bring it up is because the 2022 contest featured Moldovan singers Zdob şi Zdub & Advahov Brothers, and the song “Trenuleţul,” an exuberant little ditty about how much the Moldovans love Romania, and how the two countries are so similar they’re hard to distinguish. The video is worth a watch as a taste of Moldovan humor and a reflection of the yearning for unification. It’s hard to imagine American performers singing to any other country, even Canada or the United Kingdom, that we’re so similar that it’s hard to tell us apart:

Go fast, go quick

The train rocked by rails

But it can’t understand

Through which country it runs

An old country, a new country

It’s like one, it’s like two

Both apart, both together

It’s like two, it’s like one

Hey ho! Let’s go

Folklore and Rock’n’roll

The train is leaving! Where are you?

Chișinău to București

And now, dear readers, you know a lot more about Transnistria and Moldova than you probably ever expected to know.

Crafty_Dog

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America's Real Russian Allies
« Reply #969 on: September 10, 2023, 08:51:43 AM »
America’s Real Russian Allies

By Timothy J. Colton and Michael McFaul


We hope you enjoyed Foreign Affairs Summer Reads. We will be continuing to share more of the same great storytelling and analysis throughout the year in our subscriber-only newsletter, The Backstory. We’ve included the first edition of the season here. To continue receiving weekly highlights from our archives, become a subscriber now at the limited rate of just $2.50 per month.


On September 11, 2001, within hours of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the phone with U.S. President George W. Bush, offering his condolences. He was the first international leader to call Bush. Later that day in a televised address, Putin declared, “Russia knows directly what terrorism means, and because of this we, more than anyone, understand the feelings of the American people. In the name of Russia, I want to say to the American people—we are with you.” As the United States ramped up its war on terrorism, it appeared that it might also be ushering in a new era of partnership with Russia.

 

But as early as November 2001, Timothy Colton and Michael McFaul already saw cause for concern. In an essay published shortly after the 9/11 attacks, they wrote, “it is becoming increasingly evident that, just as America’s competition with the Soviet Union defined the second half of the last century, so will its new relationship with Russia help determine the contours of the new one.” As Washington threw itself into a global campaign against terrorism, they warned, “inattention to the fragility of Russian democracy would be a huge mistake—and one that could have serious negative consequences for American security.”

 

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin had been in office for just two years, but had consistently shown solidarity with Washington. The United States, however, should not take such support for granted, Colton and McFaul warned. Despite Putin’s early cooperation, and support for the United States and democracy among the Russian people, “senior Russian military and intelligence officers are already pushing Putin to retreat to old ways of thinking about international politics,” regarding the West with hostility and suspicion. “Backsliding in Moscow is still a danger and could pit Russia against the United States,” they wrote.

 

A political science professor at Stanford University in 2001, McFaul would go on to become the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. By that point, Russia had descended into full-fledged authoritarianism, and it launched its invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. It is impossible to say how the world would be different if the United States had chosen a different foreign policy path after 9/11. But as Colton and McFaul pointed out in November 2001, Russian democracy was not dead yet—it just needed all the help it could get to stay alive.

Crafty_Dog

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Somethings I posted on FB in support of the preceding
« Reply #970 on: September 10, 2023, 08:56:05 AM »
second

I would add the following to the preceding:
a) the Russians gave us heads up on the Boston Marathon bombers, but we blew it;

b) when, thanks to Obama, we had no means of getting our astronauts up to our Space Station the Russians provided taxi service;

c) a high level DEA friend tells me anti-drug cooperation was good. Contrast President Biden getting paid millions while hundreds of thousands of Americans have been and will be killed by Chinese fentanyl;

d) When Pakistan was uncooperative, Russia was a conduit to American logistics for Afghanistan.

================

Also:

One of my FMA teachers (GM Leo Giron, of much CQ combat in WW2 against the Japanese) said "Peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is the management of conflict."

I fully get Putin's vision.

Which is why Trump's strength (Javelins, SOCEUR training the Ukes, US energy strength, making NATO short strokers carry their load, killing Wagner in Syria, etc etc) viz Putin instead of Biden's senile and corrupt combination of hubris and appeasement (e.g. pulling the US Navy from the Black Sea, approving the NS pipeline, undoing the anti-missile deal with Poland and Czech Republic, saying a small invasion was OK (!!!) etc etc) was the way to go.

With Trump's way there was no war.

With Biden's way there is and we are led by the same crew (Biden, Harris, Blinken, Austin, Milley, Nuland, Vindeman et al) that created this giant fustercluck that reshapes China-Russia-Iran-North Korea into a giant axis that now drives to have the BRICs (including Saudi Arabia and Brazil) decouple from the dollar.

This threat is grave and was utterly unnecessary-- Putin's desires being irrelevant in the face of American strength and competence, and energy dominance.

All apparent courses of action now seriously suck.

Pulling the rug from under the Ukes now? Terrible!

Keeping on the current trajectory? Terrible!
==================================



DougMacG

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Russia withdraws troops - from their Norwegian border
« Reply #972 on: September 17, 2023, 10:53:10 AM »
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.foxnews.com/world/russian-troops-withdraw-norway-border-drop-since-start-ukraine-war-official.amp


Wait, I thought the big threat to Russia was Putin.  Turns out the NATO threat is only against Russian expansionism.


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« Last Edit: October 01, 2023, 07:35:24 AM by Crafty_Dog »

ccp

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #975 on: October 01, 2023, 11:41:51 AM »
from above article:

"O'Donnell said that the increase in supplies of US LNG helped by Norway and Qatar meant that "the EU didn't have to cave in when Putin cut the gas flows."

Funny, no mention of the Nordstream pipeline derailment.

Nada

Totally ignored

How come ? :wink:

ccp

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #976 on: October 01, 2023, 11:54:03 AM »
reading a bit deeper

the Nordstream is repaired but exports to Europe down from 55% to 35 % (Germany)

from what I gather.

Hungary still gets most from Russia

so perhaps sanctions are main source of Russia oil reduction
not clear to me

Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman: Everyone has lost already , , ,
« Reply #977 on: October 03, 2023, 02:11:34 PM »
October 3, 2023
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The War Is Over, but No One Knows How to Stop Fighting
By: George Friedman

It has been more than one and a half years since Russia launched its attack on Ukraine. The war has not gone as the Russians expected, unless they had planned for more than a year of taking casualties without being in a position to crush the Ukrainians. The Russians had to expect a short war in which they crushed the Ukrainian army and its will to resist. If they fell short, they knew that the Americans after a short time would surge weapons into Ukraine, risking a protracted conflict.

Ukraine has been defending its homeland, so morale is high. The Ukrainian mission was to force a Russian retreat across the border. Its first strategy relied on agility, employing relatively small units to strike at slow-moving Russian forces. But as the Russians drew into prepared defensive positions with heavy weapons, the Ukrainian strategy became less effective. The surge of U.S. and NATO weapons increased casualties on defensive positions as well as offensive ones.

The American-Russian war was in certain ways distinct from the Russian-Ukrainian war. I have written before on this. Russia’s fear was that an American force on the Ukrainian border could attack Moscow, some 300 miles (480 kilometers) away. The Americans feared that the fall of Ukraine would bring Russian forces to the eastern line of NATO nations, restarting the Cold War. In this sense, the war has little to do with Ukraine, save that it has savaged the country, and is sliding toward a painful and dangerous cold war.

Looked at this way, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a move against the Americans. The American response was intended not only to block the move but also to open the possibility that Russia’s greatest fear may be realized: Ukrainian forces, backed by U.S. equipment, pushing right up to the most sensitive border in Russia. It may well be that neither side intended these actions, but neither could dismiss the other.

As a result, the Russians moved into formidable defensive positions. They continued to launch offensive operations, but these lacked the power to achieve their ends. The true end became defensive. The Ukrainians attempted offensive operations, always holding back troops in the event of an unexpected Russian offensive. Both spoke of offenses and launched them, but held back power sufficient to maintain their own defenses. So, we have seen a sort of frozen war, in which the need to hold positions makes it impossible to commit enough force to achieve the initial goals. These types of wars become primarily political morasses, where both sides fear that any movement would have political consequences for the opening of peace talks.

Zelenskyy believed that if American intervention did not cause the Russians to abort, then it would at least allow Ukraine to counterattack on a vast scale. But the United States is engaged in a different conflict: keeping Russia away from NATO. It would provide sufficient force to keep the Russians at a distance but not enough to crush them.

Russia has kept the U.S. away from its border but little else. Ukraine has retained sovereignty over a good deal of the country. And the U.S. has made a Russian penetration beyond Ukraine highly unlikely.

The U.S. reached its goal, while Russia and Ukraine have not and will not. However, neither have they been crushed. Ukraine is now a divided country but enough of it is intact to claim victory, and Russia has pushed past its old border enough to claim a small victory. Both could claim humanitarian reasons for ending the war.

But now the dead creep. They gave their lives for nothing but the pretense of victory, as no rational person will think of the outcome as contempt for the dead. So having fought and defended for coming on two years, how the war ends is reasonably clear. How long will it take for the leaders to admit what is obvious? Everyone lost this war, and in due course so will the leaders. And that is what will delay the inevitable peace.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Serbia-Kosovo
« Reply #978 on: October 04, 2023, 03:39:39 AM »
An unusual military build-up in southern Europe sparked fears of another invasion like Russia's full-scale assault on Ukraine (msn.com)


================

October 4, 2023
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In the Balkans, Another Borderland Conflict Flares Up
It’s possible the spat between Serbia and Kosovo could benefit Russia.
By: Antonia Colibasanu
On Oct. 1, following a request from the supreme allied commander Europe and approval by the North Atlantic Council, the United Kingdom announced that it would deploy 200 soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment to join the 400-strong British contingent already in Kosovo for an annual exercise. The decision came a week after an armed attack by Serb militants against Kosovo police renewed fears of growing violence.

In an attempt to ease tensions, last month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with Kosovo’s prime minister, Albin Kurti. In an official communique, NATO urged the two to engage in EU-facilitated dialogue.

Even so, the situation is as volatile as ever. The North Atlantic Council said it would authorize more forces if necessary. NATO had already strengthened its presence there in May, when skirmishes between Serb protesters and law enforcement left dozens injured. By June, NATO’s peacekeeping mission there boasted 4,500 troops from 27 contributing nations. On Sept. 29, the U.S. National Security Council confirmed rumors that Serbia had beefed up its military presence at the border, calling it “an unprecedented staging of advanced artillery, tanks and mechanized infantry units.” The government in Belgrade has since cut down its troop numbers there, but tensions remain.

And the reason for these tensions is fundamentally geopolitical. Kosovo, which is populated primarily by ethnic Albanians, declared unilateral independence from Serbia in 2008. This was roughly 10 years after NATO intervened in the Kosovo War to protect ethnic Albanians from the Serbian armed forces, which, notably, resulted in NATO bombings of Serbian targets. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, and ethnic Serbs in Kosovo consider themselves to be part of Serbia.

The majority of Kosovo's Serbs live in the north but account for less than 10 percent of the total population. The area is politically, religiously and culturally important to them, so the Serb communities are unwilling to leave. Instead, they have advocated greater autonomy from the Albanian majority, and the Albanian majority fears the government in Belgrade will use these communities as an excuse to claim the area for its own. The EU-mediated Brussels Agreement of 2013 gave Serbia the right to establish municipalities in the north but stipulated that Kosovo’s government had to have some control over them. The two sides never agreed on how the agreement would be implemented.

Several seemingly insignificant events have led to flare-ups in the intervening years, including a dispute over license plates. But in March 2023, after Kosovo and Serbia signed a new deal promising to normalize ties, controversial elections in four northern Kosovo municipalities rekindled their conflict. After the polls closed, election officials reported that only 1,567 people voted in four municipalities – equal to a 3.5 percent turnout – in what was a successful boycott by ethnic Serbs. In the town of Zvecan, which has a population of just under 17,000, the newly elected mayor received only 100 or so votes. The mayors were sworn in despite accusations of illegitimacy, resulting in protests that clashed violently with security forces, including those belonging to NATO.

EU-mediated talks between Serbia and Kosovo continued throughout the summer but stalled in mid-September. EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell blamed Kosovo for the failure, saying it refused to hold early municipal elections and pointing to recent provocations such as eviction orders, property expropriations and the employment of special troops for local law enforcement. He also criticized Serbia for delaying, among other things, an energy roadmap, which contravened the agreement. Only a few days after talks ended, a police officer was shot and four civilians were killed when Kosovar police raided a monastery near the Serbian border, where at least 30 heavily armed men were allegedly hiding. Each side blamed the other, of course, but Milan Radoicic, the vice president of the Serbian List party, took sole responsibility for the incident, saying neither he nor his party received assistance from Serbia.

The recent tensions have clearly jeopardized prospects for renewing normalization talks. The European Commission already announced that it would enact punitive measures against Kosovo, and it has said it may do likewise against Serbia if no progress on easing tensions is made.

But to some degree, the damage has already been done. Serbia lost the high ground it briefly held when Kosovo refused to de-escalate tensions. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has been exculpated by Radoicic's confession that he acted without Belgrade's knowledge, but his party’s ties to the ruling Serbian Progressive Party are so well known that he may not get the benefit of the doubt. And Radoicic’s admission of guilt was likely the result of pressure from the party in Serbia. Because of his history on the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions list for organized crime, Radoicic was already hurting Serbia's international standing. The government has been trying to move closer to the West in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, and being seen as responsible for a shooting in Kosovo would certainly hurt its efforts to that end. This may be why Rodoicic resigned from the Serbian List party just before he confessed to his involvement in the shooting.

Moreover, the confession makes it more difficult for Serbia – or the international community, for that matter – to compel Kosovo to implement the Brussels Agreement and thus establish its autonomous municipalities. Kosovo’s refusal to implement the agreement, and its failure to de-escalate tensions in the north, were what led to its reprimand by the EU in the first place, including a withdrawal of the U.S. assistance that had been the backbone of its independence. The latest bout of violence, then, gives Pristina an opportunity. If it can convince the international community that it was not Radodoic alone but Serbia List that is responsible for the latest attack, and potentially declare it a terrorist organization, it could remove it from the political scene in Kosovo. With no political party, the Serbs could not establish the autonomous municipalities, so Kosovo would have no need to abide by the Brussels Agreement.

This would give the prime minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, not one but two wins. His refusal to implement the Brussels Agreement was electorally motivated; he needed to show that he was not like previous leaders, and in Kosovo, to refuse deals with Serbia is to stay in power. But Kurti can also use the attack as an excuse to tighten control over the Serb-dominated north. It may not prevent another violent flare-up – in fact, it could have the opposite effect – but it could endear him to many of his voters.

Otherwise, the big winner here is Moscow. Since 2011, when the Serbs first protested against the establishment of administrative borders between Kosovo and Serbia, Russia's popularity has grown. The Russian Embassy in Serbia provided aid at the time to the barricaded Serbs and has reportedly sustained it ever since. In 2014, a Russian center for human rights was set up in North Mitrovica, even though it was declared illegal by Kosovar authorities. And though there is nothing but rumor to suggest Russia was involved in the recent attack, Moscow would certainly benefit from another conflict in the Balkans, especially if it distracts the West from Ukraine.

To understand what could happen with Serbia, look at what is happening in the Caucasus. The incident in northern Kosovo comes a week after Azerbaijan’s military went into Nagorno-Karabakh, causing ethnic Armenians there to flee the area for fear of additional retaliation – this despite the fact that Russia has traditionally been an ally and fellow member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization with Armenia. Armenia waited in vain for Moscow’s help, but in light of renewed talks between Azerbaijan and Russia, particularly over the creation of the highly anticipated International North-South Transport Corridor, it’s possible that Russia could have helped Armenia but decided not to. It’s no secret that Moscow has been unhappy for some time now with Armenia's outreach to the West.

As the war in Ukraine continues, it has repercussions in all of Eurasia’s borderlands, where more or less frozen conflicts seem to be opening up to renegotiation or, worse, renewed violence. All interested parties are recalculating their positions accordingly.


Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #980 on: October 04, 2023, 12:42:38 PM »
What a curious coincidence!

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FA: Right sizing Putin's capabilities
« Reply #981 on: October 06, 2023, 10:51:16 AM »
Rightsizing the Russia Threat
Whatever Putin’s Intentions Are, He Is Hemmed In by Limited Capabilities
By Samuel Charap and Kaspar Pucek
October 3, 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin near Svobodny, Russia, September 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin near Svobodny, Russia, September 2023
Artem Geodakyan / Reuters
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Since Russia launched its full-scale war on Ukraine in February 2022, debates have raged in the West about how to properly respond to Moscow’s aggression. But those debates are limited by a lack of agreement about the goals of that aggression and, ultimately, what kind of threat Russia really represents. Arguably, understanding the Russia threat is a first-order priority: unless Western governments get that right, they risk either overreacting or underreacting.

Officials and scholars who have proffered their views of Russian goals tend to see them in quite stark terms. Many have made the case that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a maximalist whose ambitions go far beyond Ukraine. Others portray Putin as obsessed with Ukraine—or more specifically, obsessed with erasing it from the map. Such assessments of Putin’s intentions, however, are often unmoored from any consideration of his capabilities. If one accepts the formulation that a threat must be assessed based on an adversary’s intentions and capabilities, then the limits of what Putin can do establish which of his ambitions are relevant for understanding the threat posed by Russia—and which merely reflect the powers of his imagination.

Over the past 20 months, the world has learned much about what Putin can and cannot do. When one considers that evidence, a different view of Putin and the threat he represents emerges: a dangerous aggressor, for sure, but ultimately a tactician who has had to adjust to the constraints under which he is forced to operate.

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WHAT DOES PUTIN WANT?
Some prominent Russia analysts have claimed that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is merely the first step in a much larger attempt at domination that will extend beyond Ukraine. Putin, in this view, is a maximalist. As the scholars Angela Stent and Fiona Hill argued in Foreign Affairs: “[Putin’s] claims go beyond Ukraine, into Europe and Eurasia. The Baltic states might be on his colonial agenda, as well as Poland.” In this view, Russia’s progressively greater use of military force in its foreign policy since the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 is part of a continual process that has yet to peak. Putin, accordingly, will not stop until he has restored some version of the Russian Empire or at least a sphere of influence that goes beyond Ukraine. As Hill and Stent put it in a different article: “If Russia were to prevail in this bloody conflict, Putin’s appetite for expansion would not stop at the Ukrainian border. The Baltic states, Finland, Poland, and many other countries that were once part of Russia’s empire could be at risk of attack or subversion.”

If Putin does harbor such imperialist ambitions in eastern Europe, his intentions would partly resemble those of Hitler and Stalin. Some leaders, particularly in parts of formerly communist eastern Europe that fell under Nazi occupation during World War II and Soviet occupation and control after it, have not shied away from making the analogy explicit. For example, in June 2022, Polish President Andrzej Duda criticized German and French attempts at diplomacy with Russia by rhetorically asking: “Did anyone speak like this with Adolf Hitler during World War II? Did anyone say that Adolf Hitler must save face? That we should proceed in such a way that it is not humiliating for Adolf Hitler? I have not heard such voices.”

Other analysts and policymakers have portrayed Putin as essentially a génocidaire—a man bent on destroying not only the Ukrainian state but also its people and culture. As the historian David Marples put it: “The Russian leadership seeks to depopulate and destroy the entity that since 1991 has existed as the independent Ukrainian state.” The writer Anne Applebaum concurs: “This was never just a war for territory, after all, but rather a campaign fought with genocidal intent.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described “an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia,” a charge backed by the odious practices of Russian forces: the mass killings of civilians, the torture and rape of detainees, the deliberate bombing of residential neighborhoods, and the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. In his September 2022 address to the UN General Assembly, U.S. President Joe Biden stated that “this war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people.” The legislatures of Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland have joined that of Ukraine in formally declaring Russia’s aggression in Ukraine a genocide.


Putin’s dreams matter little if he cannot realize them on the ground.
The trouble with seeing Putin as a maximalist or a génocidaire is that it ignores his inability to be either one of those things—unless he resorts to use of weapons of mass destruction. When Russia’s conventional military was at the peak of its power at the start of the war, it was incapable of taking control of any major Ukrainian city. Since the retreat from Kyiv and the northeast, Russian forces have demonstrated little capacity to conduct successful offensive operations. Their last attempt—a winter offensive in the south of the Donetsk region—ended in a bloodbath for the Russian side. At this rate, Putin will never succeed at taking control of Ukraine by force, let alone wipe out its inhabitants, even if Western support for Kyiv wanes. If he cannot take Ukraine, it seems far-fetched that he could go beyond it. These Russian weaknesses are widely invoked, but they are usually ignored in assessments that focus on Putin’s intentions.

Moreover, Moscow’s soft-power instruments have been revealed to be equally ineffective as its hard power ones. Despite many fears to the contrary, German dependence on Russian natural gas has not allowed Moscow to stop Berlin from leading efforts to counter aggression in Ukraine. In addition, the shallowness of Russia’s capital markets and the general weakness of its industrial sector have driven former Soviet countries toward the West and China in search of trade opportunities and investments—despite elaborate attempts by Moscow to foster economic integration in the region. In addition, Putin’s Russia, unlike its Soviet predecessor, has no power of attraction with which to co-opt foreign elites into larger political projects. The Kremlin under Putin has neither a powerful, transnational ideology nor a developmental model that could attract elites outside its borders. Whatever soft power Russia wielded to attract elites through more banal means—say, bribery on a grand scale—has been largely squandered by now, thanks to the brutality of its war.

The Ukraine war has revealed that Putin does not have the resources—short of using nuclear weapons—to fulfill maximalist or genocidal objectives. The Russian military has improved its performance during the war; its destructive power should not be dismissed. And Putin’s intentions do matter. But it is now clear that his forces cannot defeat the Ukrainian military, let alone occupy the country. Perhaps he might dream of wiping Ukraine off the map or of marching onward from Ukraine to the rest of the continent. But his dreams matter little if he cannot realize them on the ground.

PAVED WITH BAD INTENTIONS
A smaller but vocal group of analysts takes a markedly different view of Putin’s intentions, claiming that he is a fundamentally defensive actor who seeks (like all leaders of major powers, this group alleges) to prevent threats to his homeland from materializing. Rather than trying to conquer Ukraine, let alone Europe, Putin has been waging a reactive war to keep the West out of his backyard. The political scientist John Mearsheimer, the most prominent exponent of this view, has argued that “there is no evidence in the public record that Putin was contemplating, much less intending to put an end to Ukraine as an independent state and make it part of greater Russia when he sent his troops into Ukraine.” He has also written that “there is no evidence Russia was preparing a puppet government for Ukraine, cultivating pro-Russian leaders in Kyiv, or pursuing any political measures that would make it possible to occupy the entire country and eventually integrate it into Russia.” In other words, Russia has been playing defense, and Putin is merely pushing back against Western encroachment. He seeks nothing more than security for his country.   

But this portrayal of Putin clashes with the reality of Russia’s actions. It now seems patently obvious that Putin’s motives went far beyond defense. It is difficult to see the Russian attempt to take Kyiv in the first weeks of the war as anything other than a regime-change operation. And British, Ukrainian, and U.S. intelligence agencies have all judged that the Kremlin attempted to prepare various Ukrainian figureheads to lead a Russian puppet regime in Kyiv and steer the country back into Moscow’s orbit. (One such figurehead, Oleg Tsaryov, even directly confirmed his presence in Ukraine on the day the full-scale invasion began, declaring on the Telegram social media platform that “Kyiv will be free from fascists.”)

Still, to accurately assess the Russia threat, the clear evidence of Putin’s initially expansive intentions must be coupled with the equally clear evidence of Russia’s limited capabilities, which have been on vivid display since February 2022 and which appear to have forced Putin to adjust his aims. Putin may well have been seeking to conquer Ukraine in the initial stage of the war, but following the failure of that plan, he (at least temporarily) downsized his goals. He withdrew his forces from around the capital and other cities in the northeast of Ukraine in early April 2022; they have never returned. As Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, has testified to Congress: “Putin is likely better understanding the limits of what his military is capable of achieving and appears to be focused on more limited military objectives for now.” The best way to understand Putin, then, is not as an offensive maximalist, a génocidaire, or a wholly defensive actor, but rather as a tactician who adjusts his ambitions to accord with the constraints under which he operates. Analysis of the Russia threat should focus less on what he might aspire to and more on what he plausibly can get with the power he has.

DEALING WITH A TACTICAL ADVERSARY
An understanding of Putin as a tactician is not necessarily reassuring. His ambitions may well expand in the future just as they have contracted in the past—and if Russia’s power can enable that expansion, then threat assessments should change. Moreover, even with his current limited capabilities, Putin can still inflict major damage on Ukraine and its people. Russia has pounded Ukrainian ports and industrial and energy facilities and has mined many agricultural fields. Its naval blockade has obstructed exports of grain, steel, and other commodities on which the Ukrainian economy (and that of many other countries) critically depends. In 2022, the Ukrainian economy shrank by a third, and it is hard to imagine how a substantial recovery could take place before Moscow stops bombing major cities and infrastructure and lifts the blockade. Further, Ukraine is by far the most powerful of Russia’s non-NATO neighbors. In other words, even with his current capabilities and a tactician’s mindset, Putin could pose an insurmountable threat to Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and other former Soviet republics. U.S. allies in NATO might be safe, but that’s cold comfort to people in those countries.

For governments, rightsizing the Russia threat—that is, adopting an understanding of Putin as a tactician operating under significant constraints—should form the basis for determining appropriate policy responses to his actions. Policymakers should recognize that Putin’s goals might well be a moving target and avoid static assessments. Regularly testing the proposition that he might have adjusted to new circumstances would be a sensible approach. 

Regardless, a proper understanding of the threat Russia poses must begin with an accurate appraisal of Russian power. Putin might harbor fantasies of world conquest. But at the moment, his military cannot even fully conquer any of the four Ukrainian provinces he claims to have annexed last year. Ultimately, those are the constraints that should bound the debate about the extent of the threat.

Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman: Thoughts on the American Interest
« Reply #982 on: October 06, 2023, 10:55:49 AM »
Second

Respect for GF, but IMHO he misses the consequences of our insisting upon getting inside of Russia reactionary gap.

October 6, 2023
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Thoughts on the American Interest
Thoughts in and around geopolitics.
By: George Friedman

Recently, I wrote an article on the Ukraine war titled “The War Is Over, but No One Knows How to Stop Fighting.” There were substantial reader comments and a strong minority who argued that given my thinking, it was time to withdraw U.S. funding for weapons for Ukraine. I normally answer emails individually, but I found this viewpoint important and in error, so I thought I would write a broader piece.

The war is at a standstill rather than a Russian victory precisely because of weapons and money provided by the United States. Remove that aid and Russia, a much better-endowed country, would likely sweep over the Ukrainians. The gridlock that exists would collapse. That would lead to a much greater problem. If Ukraine fell to Russia, Russia would then be on the borderline of NATO countries (the Baltic states, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania). Russian President Vladimir Putin once said the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical disaster. I am certain he included in that the fact that Russian troops were no longer stationed in central Germany, where a generation of U.S. troops faced off with them through many cold winters. Putin understood the importance of strategic depth in defending Russia, and this was lost when the Soviet Union fell and Ukraine became an independent country. His attack on Ukraine was intended to rebalance it.

But the reality would be that the United States, its allies and Russia would again face each other, both sides on a hair trigger, in a dangerous confrontation. Each nation has its own national interest. Russia’s is to surge west through Ukraine, and the United States’ is to stop it. Perhaps a Russian victory would not have such dire consequences, but Americans have learned – or should have learned – to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. That would seem an expensive frame of mind to some, but it has been ignored in the past, resulting in much sorrow.

In May 1940, Germany invaded France. The British had been asking for American military aid. There was a strong movement, built around groups like America First, that did not want the United States to be engaged in wars that were “none of its business.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt slipped some aid to Britain but not the kind of massive military assistance or troops that might have blocked Germany. Many Americans saw this as a foreign war of little importance to the United States.

Hitler declared war on the United States several days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. There are different numbers given for how many Americans died in the European theater of operations in World War II. (Estimates range from about 200,000 to 400,000, but the numbers are not morally significant.) This was the expensive route. Engaging earlier in the war would have both been prudent and saved lives, as defense is less costly than offense.

The most important lesson of this is that an American decision not to go to war does not necessarily prevent war. In spite of the U.S. unwillingness to make war on Germany, Japan and Germany coordinated Pearl Harbor and Germany’s initiation of war on the United States. The idea that making war is an option for the United States is an illusion. Wars are very often initiated by the enemy.

This was a reality that the America First people missed. They combined their position on war with an opposition to the construction of weapons that could be seen as hostile. And they were opposed to defense spending, which forced the U.S. into a massive spending spree when the war began.

Can the U.S. avoid a major war in Ukraine? Yes, if the Russians don’t attack further westward. Otherwise, the options are war or giving them a free hand.

Where should the United States act on the worst case? As far into Ukraine as possible, keeping Russia as far from the western border as possible.

Should the United States fight its own war or fund the Ukrainian military? The answer to that is obvious. The war has to be fought, but better with weapons and money than American troops.

However the U.S. fights it, the Russians must achieve strategic depth. How much may be negotiable if the Ukrainians – with American help – maintain the burden of independence, which they are. We can give money, or face a more dangerous Russia and give lives. I vote money.

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Estonia shows the way
« Reply #983 on: October 09, 2023, 10:37:08 AM »
Estonia’s Lessons for Ukraine
The former Soviet state has rooted out corruption and bet big on technology.
Andy Kessler
Oct. 8, 2023 12:01 pm ET




“You can’t bribe a computer,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told me. When it’s time to rebuild, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should heed these words. Estonia—a member of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—is No. 1 in providing government services digitally, according to the United Nations; first in democratic development among 29 postcommunist countries, according to Freedom House; first in international tax competitiveness, according to the Tax Foundation (the U.S. is 22nd); and sixth in the 2023 Index of Economic Freedom, according to the Heritage Foundation (the U.S. is 25th). It has the most startups per capita in Europe, and its 15-year-olds top the Continent in reading, science and mathematics.

Last week I sat down with Ms. Kallas, 46, in the cabinet room of Stenbock House, seat of Estonia’s government, and couldn’t help asking, “How did you accomplish all this since regaining independence?” I had been politely warned not to say “since Soviet occupation.”

“To attract investments, investors must trust your economy,” Ms. Kallas said. “Under the Soviets, we normalized corruption. When we restored our independence and freedom, suddenly it required a whole new mind-set from all people—it was not OK to steal from the state.”

“We have become this tech-savvy country”—Skype was created in Estonia —“because we had to do everything from scratch, so we sort of leapfrogged and went directly into e-governance.”

“Ninety-nine percent of our government services are digital, and we are more and more using AI.” Plus, “98% of people file taxes online because it’s all pre-filled. We are probably the only country in the world where people actually compete over how fast they file taxes because it’s so simple.”

Ms. Kallas noted her government uses these digital tools “to decrease, diminish bureaucracy.” That’s how to create small government. “It’s cheaper and our debt is much lower as well.” Though it’s rising, Estonia still has the lowest ratio of government debt to gross domestic product in the EU.

Taxes? “We are a very open economy. Our competitive advantage is that we don’t have corporate income tax. When you reinvest into your company, your equipment, your people, you’re not paying income tax, you’re only paying income tax if you take it out as dividends, if it’s distributed.”

With low corporate taxes, “a lot of EU residents from the U.K. are establishing companies here.” A Brexit win. And “the personal income tax is 20%. But we had to raise it now to 22% because of the costs. We have to spend on defense, right?”

I said, “Small government, free trade, low taxes—that’s the Reagan playbook.” She smiled.

“We don’t have a lot of people or natural resources”—some oil shale, plus limestone and lake mud. “What do we have? We have our minds and brains. So we actually have to focus on that, that means an education system.” It “focuses on the STEM subjects. All first-graders are taught coding—I guess actually, it’s even in kindergartens.” Estonian kindergartners use robots from a program called ProgeTiger. “We are a small country, only 1.3 million people, which means that you have to learn all the other languages. And coding is one of the languages you learn.”


“We also teach entrepreneurship in schools.” In high school they do role-playing, with bankers and loans and investment and government. “Oh, you pay taxes, where does that go?” Ms. Kallas says she is proud that Estonia “is very high on the list of youth entrepreneurship.”

Ms. Kallas notes the country has the most unicorns per capita—startups worth over $1 billion. “We have 11 of such companies in different fields. It’s really manufacturing, and it’s IT services. We help a lot of, for example, African countries to build up their governance, and we have helped Ukraine.”

At a recent international conference, Ms. Kallas was in a “green room where all the leaders are. And I had a queue of people wanting to greet me. And you know why? Because Estonia has helped those countries and I didn’t even know all of them. And they came to thank me for what we have done. We are such a small country, but we have helped a lot of countries in the world, e-governance, setting up their services.” A great export.

Estonia does have issues: “When the war started, our imports from Russia decreased 95%. The export is more complicated, because we have the land border, and there are the exports that are oriented from Estonia and the exports that actually come from other European countries.” Add to that high energy prices driving inflation and a modest recession. A small scandal swirls over an investment in Russia by Ms. Kallas’s husband. Still, the Reagan playbook is working.

The Biden administration focuses on squishy notions like equity while Estonia is working to increase everyone’s equity value. Purchasing power is up 400% since Soviet occupation—sorry, since Estonia regained independence. Free trade, low taxes, small government, e-services, educated workers, low debt and negligible corruption. Ukraine—and the U.S.—can learn a lot from Estonia.









ccp

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #992 on: November 27, 2023, 07:59:08 AM »
The main stipulation was Ukraine not join NATO

although this is unclear :
" Donbass would remain in Ukraine but as an autonomous region"

not sure what this means

or "the Crimea problem would be addressed"

Overall to me this sounds like a good deal for everyone.
So Ukraine does not get admitted to NATO

so what.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Russia-Turkey-Euro energy deal
« Reply #993 on: November 27, 2023, 01:03:52 PM »


Roadmap. Turkey and Russia agreed on a roadmap to build a natural gas hub in the Turkish region of Thrace, according to Turkish media. The project would make Turkey one of the largest gas suppliers to Europe and a central figure in the energy export business. Russia’s Gazprom and Turkish state-owned Botas are working closely on the project.

Crafty_Dog

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Walter Russell Mead: How to Avoid Defeat
« Reply #994 on: November 27, 2023, 01:18:48 PM »
second

How to Avoid Defeat in Ukraine
For starters, step up military aid and break Putin’s global networks of influence.
Walter Russell Mead
WSJ
Nov. 27, 2023 1:24 pm ET

The German tabloid “Bild” said the quiet part out loud. President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the well-sourced newspaper reported, plan to force Ukraine into peace talks next year by denying it the weapons needed to win.

This creates a dilemma for those who know that Ukraine’s fate matters deeply to the U.S., but who can also see that Team Biden is more interested in avoiding confrontation with Russia than in defeating it. To oppose aid to Ukraine is to ensure a Russian victory, but funding Mr. Biden’s approach will do little to prevent one—and will further erode public support for America’s global engagement.

Having failed to deter Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine in the first place, the Biden administration badly overestimated the effect of Western sanctions on Russia. Once it was clear that sanctions wouldn’t force Russia to end the war, and after several failed efforts to tempt Russia with “off ramps,” Team Biden cooked up Plan Stalemate. The West would dribble out enough aid to help Ukraine survive, but not enough to help it win. Ultimately, the Ukrainians would lose hope of victory and offer Mr. Putin a compromise peace. The White House would spin this as a glorious triumph for democracy and the rule of law.

Some will criticize this as a cynical strategy, but the real problem is that it is naive. Mr. Biden seems to be clinging to the idea that Mr. Putin can be appeased—parked, if you prefer—by reasonable concessions. And so, the White House thinks, if Ukraine offers reasonable terms, Russia will gladly accept them.

But what if, when Mr. Putin senses weakness, he doubles down? What if a few thousand square miles of Ukrainian territory matter less to him than inflicting a humiliating defeat on the Biden administration and demonstrating the weakness of the West?

Mr. Putin has recovered from his early stumbles in Ukraine. Russia has more than doubled its forces there since the war began. Despite early setbacks, Russia has developed capabilities and tactics that have improved its troops’ effectiveness on the battlefield. The unconventional (if morally repugnant) decision to send released prisoners to fight in such places as Bakhmut and Avdiivka means that Russia was able to degrade some of Ukraine’s best combat units while preserving its own best units for battle elsewhere.

Russia has increased weapons production and is now manufacturing ammunition an estimated seven times faster than the West. It has mitigated the effect of Western sanctions. It is strengthening military and strategic links with Iran, and thanks to Iranian protégé Hamas, Western attention has shifted from Ukraine toward the Middle East.

Let’s say that six months from now the Biden strategy brings Ukraine to the bargaining table. At that point, support for more war funding would be even lower in the U.S. and Europe than it is now. Ukraine would be even more divided and war-weary than it is now. President Volodymyr Zelensky’s political position at home would grow weaker. Under those circumstances, why would Mr. Putin give President Biden a face-saving exit from a war Mr. Biden doesn’t think he can win?

We are back to the Obama follies. In 2014, President Obama failed to deter Russia from violating the United Nations Charter and its own pledged word by invading the territory of a neighbor whose security the U.S. had committed to support in the Budapest Memorandum. Mr. Obama failed to fight back against the invasion, and he then failed to develop a program of sanctions and counter-pressure that would have prevented Russia from consolidating its winnings in Crimea and the Donbas.

Sophomorically mocking Mitt Romney’s sage warnings about Mr. Putin, supinely whispering sweet nothings about more flexibility after the election into the ears of then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and passively accepting Russia’s murderous and strategically fateful venture into Syria, President Obama taught Mr. Putin contempt for the West.

Mr. Putin largely rested on his laurels during the Trump administration, but once Mr. Biden brought a host of ex-Obama officials back to the White House, the Russian leader moved back into high gear. Until Team Biden fully shakes off the vacuous platitudes of Obama-era groupthink, the administration will continue its flailing and failing in the face of the empowered and emboldened Russia Mr. Obama left to his successors.

There still are ways for the West to prevail. Mr. Putin’s global networks of influence can be destroyed. We can break Wagner’s power in Africa, disrupt Russia’s activities in Syria, and squeeze Iran to block its cooperation with Moscow. We can step up our military aid to tip the balance against Russia in Ukraine.
Funding failure isn’t a plan. Congress should continue to fund Ukraine, but it must also insist on the policy changes that would make American strategy coherent again.

DougMacG

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Re: Walter Russell Mead: How to Avoid Defeat
« Reply #995 on: November 27, 2023, 02:21:20 PM »
What do others here think about that?

ccp

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #996 on: November 27, 2023, 03:01:20 PM »
" There still are ways for the West to prevail. Mr. Putin’s global networks of influence can be destroyed. We can break Wagner’s power in Africa, disrupt Russia’s activities in Syria, and squeeze Iran to block its cooperation with Moscow. We can step up our military aid to tip the balance against Russia in Ukraine."

really
we can do all this?
if so easy why not already done?


Crafty_Dog

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Comments on the WRM article
« Reply #997 on: November 27, 2023, 03:53:04 PM »
"President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the well-sourced newspaper reported, plan to force Ukraine into peace talks next year by denying it the weapons needed to win."

I suspect he is right about this.

"This creates a dilemma for those who know that Ukraine’s fate matters deeply to the U.S., but who can also see that Team Biden is more interested in avoiding confrontation with Russia than in defeating it. To oppose aid to Ukraine is to ensure a Russian victory, but funding Mr. Biden’s approach will do little to prevent one—and will further erode public support for America’s global engagement."

Agree.

"Having failed to deter Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine in the first place, the Biden administration badly overestimated the effect of Western sanctions on Russia. Once it was clear that sanctions wouldn’t force Russia to end the war, and after several failed efforts to tempt Russia with “off ramps,” Team Biden cooked up Plan Stalemate. The West would dribble out enough aid to help Ukraine survive, but not enough to help it win."

I think this correctly captures a depth of cynicism that is quite terrible.

"Ultimately, the Ukrainians would lose hope of victory and offer Mr. Putin a compromise peace. The White House would spin this as a glorious triumph for democracy and the rule of law."

That sounds about right to me.

"Some will criticize this as a cynical strategy, but the real problem is that it is naive. Mr. Biden seems to be clinging to the idea that Mr. Putin can be appeased—parked, if you prefer—by reasonable concessions. And so, the White House thinks, if Ukraine offers reasonable terms, Russia will gladly accept them."

The same error as the one made with Iran.

"But what if, when Mr. Putin senses weakness, he doubles down? What if a few thousand square miles of Ukrainian territory matter less to him than inflicting a humiliating defeat on the Biden administration and demonstrating the weakness of the West?"

A question that must be asked, particularly with the rest of the Axis tag team America's already overtaxed bandwidth.

"Mr. Putin has recovered from his early stumbles in Ukraine. Russia has more than doubled its forces there since the war began. Despite early setbacks, Russia has developed capabilities and tactics that have improved its troops’ effectiveness on the battlefield , , , Russia has increased weapons production and is now manufacturing ammunition an estimated seven times faster than the West. It has mitigated the effect of Western sanctions. It is strengthening military and strategic links with Iran, and thanks to Iranian protégé Hamas, Western attention has shifted from Ukraine toward the Middle East."

So much for the braggadocious happy talk from the White House, Pentagon, and the Pravdas!  Appeasement has had its predictable consequences.

"Let’s say that six months from now the Biden strategy brings Ukraine to the bargaining table. At that point, support for more war funding would be even lower in the U.S. and Europe than it is now. Ukraine would be even more divided and war-weary than it is now. President Volodymyr Zelensky’s political position at home would grow weaker. Under those circumstances, why would Mr. Putin give President Biden a face-saving exit from a war Mr. Biden doesn’t think he can win?"

A penetrating question.

"We are back to the Obama follies. In 2014, President Obama failed to deter Russia from violating the United Nations Charter and its own pledged word by invading the territory of a neighbor whose security the U.S. had committed to support in the Budapest Memorandum. Mr. Obama failed to fight back against the invasion, and he then failed to develop a program of sanctions and counter-pressure that would have prevented Russia from consolidating its winnings in Crimea and the Donbas.

"Sophomorically mocking Mitt Romney’s sage warnings about Mr. Putin, supinely whispering sweet nothings about more flexibility after the election into the ears of then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and passively accepting Russia’s murderous and strategically fateful venture into Syria, President Obama taught Mr. Putin contempt for the West."

A devastating bitch slap from reality!

"Mr. Putin largely rested on his laurels during the Trump administration, but once Mr. Biden brought a host of ex-Obama officials back to the White House, the Russian leader moved back into high gear. Until Team Biden fully shakes off the vacuous platitudes of Obama-era groupthink, the administration will continue its flailing and failing in the face of the empowered and emboldened Russia Mr. Obama left to his successors."

Yup.

"There still are ways for the West to prevail. Mr. Putin’s global networks of influence can be destroyed."

This is not immediately apparent to me.

"We can break Wagner’s power in Africa",

Really?

"disrupt Russia’s activities in Syria,"

Having brought the Russians in, and with the Turks and Russians working together what would be the plan here?  How did Hillary's machinations in Syria turn out?

"and squeeze Iran to block its cooperation with Moscow."

We can and should squeeze Iran, but I'm not seeing any signs of this being remotely plausible.  Indeed, Iranian proxies attack us in Iraq and Syria without consequence, and the Houthis in Yemen too.

"We can step up our military aid to tip the balance against Russia in Ukraine."

Ummm , , , like what?  And what does Russia do should the Ukes start winning?  Note the above about Russia's improved game.  As we have noted here previously, the working assumption is that the Russian's motivational structure is always to double down.

"Funding failure isn’t a plan."

Agree!

"Congress should continue to fund Ukraine, but it must also insist on the policy changes that would make American strategy coherent again."

Ummm , , , but after reading this piece, as full of intelligent observations as it is, we still are no closer to knowing what that is.   Take Crimea?  Take Donbass?  Allow the Ukes to start hitting the Russian homeland?  Overthrow Putin?   What badwidth would we have left for useful elsewhere?

« Last Edit: November 27, 2023, 06:10:41 PM by Crafty_Dog »