Author Topic: US-Russia  (Read 98124 times)

Crafty_Dog

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GPF
« Reply #250 on: March 05, 2018, 11:38:44 AM »
Russia: Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. said that in light of recent U.S. moves against Russia, it would be impossible for Moscow and Washington to hold strategic consultations in Vienna, which had been scheduled for March 6-7. This could be significant if it is a sign that relations are taking a turn for the worse.

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Stratfor: US-Russia: Circling the Drain
« Reply #252 on: March 20, 2018, 05:15:36 AM »
on security highlights

    Tensions between the West and Russia are ratcheting up in the wake of the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal.
    The heightened hostilities will make day-to-day operations more challenging for foreign companies, nongovernmental organizations and journalists working in Russia.
    In addition to the threat of government surveillance and harassment, foreigners will likely be the targets of increased violence from nationalists and nationalist gangs.

Just when it looks like relations between Russia and the West have hit rock bottom, they manage to reach a new low. It's a pattern we've been tracking for the last decade as Russia's security services have grown more aggressive in their tactics. And sure enough, tensions have flared once again following the attack on Col. Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who, along with his daughter,  was poisoned with a rare nerve agent in London on March 4. The British government has since announced that the nerve agent used in the attack was a novichok, Russian for "newcomer" — a substance Russia's chemical weapons program reportedly developed to bypass the restrictions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Moscow signed in 1993. The compound's use was likely meant as a calling card, a warning from the Russian government to current intelligence officers not to turn against the homeland as Skripal had.
The Big Picture

Russia has long been a challenging environment for Western companies and nongovernmental organizations. As relations between Moscow and the West continue to sour in the wake of the attack against former Russian military intelligence Col. Sergei Skripal, the environment will be even more challenging.

After the novichok revelation, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsion from London of 23 Russian diplomats believed to be intelligence officers. The British government is also discussing the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Moscow, with the support of the United States and other NATO allies. But the Kremlin won't take these punishments lightly. Moscow already has kicked 23 British intelligence officers out of Russia and will doubtless snap back at new sanctions with measures of its own, as it did in response to sanctions over the invasion of Crimea in 2014. The escalating hostilities stand to make working and traveling in Russia even more difficult for Western companies and their employees.
Hostile Hosts

Relations between Russia and the West have chilled considerably since President Vladimir Putin's election in 2000, and the enmity is becoming palpable. A friend who has traveled all across Russia in his frequent trips to the country recently recounted how on a visit earlier this month, he sensed unusual hostility from ordinary Russians on the street. When he asked a security officer why the locals were treating him this way, the officer replied that it was because the Americans had killed more Russians in Syria than they did during the entire Cold War. He was referring, among other things, to reports that U.S. airstrikes in Deir el-Zour province killed dozens, if not hundreds, of Russian military contractors Feb. 7 when forces aligned with the Syrian government attempted to seize an oil field.

Though the accuracy of the security officer's statement is questionable — especially if one accounts for U.S. support to the mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan war — the conflict in Syria does seem to explain some of the hostility. Russian state media seized on the bloody fight, and the U.S. contribution to the body count, to stir up nationalism and galvanize support for Putin in the runup to his re-election. The sanctions Washington slapped on Moscow in response to the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, to Russia's invasion of Crimea and to its interventions in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have only fueled the Russian public's rancor. And it's not just directed at the U.S. government or military, as my friend's anecdotal account illustrates.
Business as Usual?

For a variety of reasons, including corruption, confusing and sometimes conflicting laws and regulations, and organized crime, Russia has long been a challenging environment for foreign businesses. The blowback over Western sanctions and battlefield deaths in Syria will add yet another wrinkle for overseas companies and nongovernmental organizations active there. Beyond the repercussions for day-to-day operations, the mounting strain between Moscow and the West could have unpleasant consequences for the estimated 1 million spectators, corporate sponsors and athletes who will flock to Russia this summer for the World Cup. Many of these visitors, after all, will hail from the West.

Well before the attack on Skripal, and the subsequent death of a Russian businessman and government critic in London, we warned of the threat industrial espionage will pose to Western companies and executives during the World Cup. But these incidents and their fallout will no doubt make Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and Foreign Intelligence Service even more aggressive toward Westerners living or traveling in Russia.

Throughout its history, and increasingly over the last several years, Russia often has been a difficult place for companies from abroad to do business.

In 2016, Russian lawmakers passed the Yarovaya Law, requiring tech companies operating in the country, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, to store user data, limit encryption and help the FSB decipher encrypted messages. Regulators in Russia have since used the law to clamp down on virtual private networks, or VPNs, which foreign companies often use to protect proprietary data. In light of these restrictions, visitors to the country need to be careful about what data they bring in with them. They can assume that whatever they do bring in will be compromised. Tourists or business travelers may also consider using burner phones or computers — prepaid, disposable devices that will never be connected to a corporate or home network — for the duration of their stay. In addition, visitors should be aware that most high-end hotel rooms in Russia are wired for sound and video.
A Dangerous Fervor

Beyond increased intelligence attention, Western companies and travelers will probably face a greater threat of violence from Russian nationalists and nationalist gangs. Minorities and obvious foreigners in Russia have long been the targets of attacks from nationalist groups and individuals. The surging hostility toward the West will only encourage these kinds of incidents. One of the reasons Putin acts so aggressively on the global stage is that his demonstrations of bravado — like the annexation of Crimea — meet with overwhelming support from the public. In fact, the more brazenly he behaves, the higher his approval rating seems to climb. The international backlash over his actions, moreover, helps reinforce the narrative that other countries want to hold Russia back, which, in turn, perpetuates suspicion and antipathy toward foreigners.

Throughout its history, and increasingly over the last several years, Russia often has been a difficult place for companies from abroad to do business. But the latest developments between Moscow and the West are only going to make things worse — especially for British and U.S. companies, NGOs and journalists.

Crafty_Dog

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NR: We Will Never Have an Honest Conversation about Russia Again
« Reply #254 on: April 02, 2018, 09:43:38 AM »
IMHO this article forgets and badly understates what a grievous problem Communist Russia was for its neighbors and for the world and what Russia is today.  Also, the brief description of what happened with Georgia is well wide of the mark-- the Russians were giving Russian passports to ethnically Russian Georgians in preparation for skullduggery.

Nonetheless, this is a thoughtful article.


https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/03/russia-american-foreign-policy-realism-difficult/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NR%20Daily%20Monday%20through%20Friday%202018-03-28&utm_term=NR5PM%20Actives

Can the American intelligentsia and American policymakers ever discuss Russia intelligently, realistically, and honestly? I doubt it.

Consider two sets of facts.

Here’s the first: Recently, on British soil, agents of the Russian state probably assassinated an ex spy of theirs using a chemical weapon. Russia may have worked with WikiLeaks to release information embarrassing to Hillary Clinton, either with the goal of weakening her as president, or helping to elect Donald Trump. In 2014, Russia annexed a portion of Crimea; it was the first time the Russian state had expanded its territory of rule since the end of the Cold War. Russian-supplied militants in Ukraine used anti-aircraft weaponry to down a passenger airliner. Russia makes special deals with American enemies, such as Iran. Russia made itself a player again in the Middle East, by intervening in Syria, when America couldn’t commit itself to removing Bashar al-Assad. It provides safe refuge for Edward Snowden, who is wanted for stealing American secrets. Russian banks lend to disruptive political parties in the Western world, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front. Russia suppresses political dissent within Russia through both legal and extra-legal measures, from preventing ballot access to killing journalists. Its military conducts provocative exercises along the borders of NATO countries.

Here’s the second: Russia withdrew peacefully from 700,000 square miles of Europe and Eurasia at the end of the Cold War. Boris Yeltsin’s government, claiming to act on the advice of Western policymakers who counseled “shock therapy,” sold the assets of the Russian economy to a series of Communist apparatchiks and gangsters. This was deeply unpopular in Russia but his reelection was secured by direct American meddling, including “emergency infusions” of billions of dollars of Western money, a phalanx of American political consultants, and a play-scripted “confrontation” with Bill Clinton. Under Yeltsin’s rule, economic and social trends culminated in a major decrease in Russian life expectancy. George W. Bush empowered revolutions in the former Soviet sphere. His administration empowered men, such as Mikhail Saakashvili in Georgia, who proceeded to make war on Russia. During just President Obama’s second term, the United States backed a putsch in Ukraine and a series of Islamist-tinged rebels in Syria, two countries that happen to host major Russian naval installations. In both these cases, Russia intervened militarily.

What story do you tell from the above facts? Is Russia weak or is it gathering confidence and strength? Is it contained by strong Western policymaking? Or is it encircled by hysterical and easily terrified Western powers? Is Putin playing a bad geopolitical hand brilliantly? Or is he desperately maneuvering to cover over faults and mistakes?

America’s political actors seem to shift their views easily. When Mitt Romney said in 2012 that Russia was America’s “top geopolitical foe,” President Obama snapped back, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” Liberals cheered.

But two years later, Russia passed a law proscribing homosexual propaganda aimed at youth. The state arrested the punk-rock band Pussy Riot for protesting on the altar of a cathedral. Suddenly, for American liberals, Russia began to become a foreign proxy for their own domestic culture wars. Obama sent gay athletes in the American delegation to the Sochi Olympics. Pussy Riot was feted as heroic.

What troubles us? It can’t be that we are upset at Russian violations of human rights at home; that doesn’t trouble anyone who approves America’s special relationship with Saudi Arabia. It can’t be that we really fear it as a long-term rival for power. Russia shrinks, China grows. So what is it?

In elite policymaking circles, in the well-lit rooms lined with free bottles of spring water, where people grandly refer to themselves as “Atlanticists,” Russia isn’t spoken about as if it were a nation with its own history, impelling national interests, and problems. Instead, both privately and publicly, it is spoken of like a ghost written into the Western storyline. It haunts the West. It is the motor behind every unwelcome political development. It is blamed for the rise of Viktor Orbán in Hungary, even if he was the product of Atlanticist institutions. People blame Russia for the rise of a populist nationalist party in Poland, even if that party is led by a man who believes Putin killed his brother.

    Some day we might learn again that Russia is simply a nation-state with its own enduring interests.

Russia functions as symbol of Western self-doubt, in all its varieties. Western populists doubt that their leadership class has their interests at heart, and they imagine that Putin stands up for his country. Some in the Western political class doubt that their post–Cold War program of ever-freer movement of goods, capital, and people could ever come to ruin. And so they believe its apparent rejection in the votes for Brexit and Donald Trump must be the product of Russian machinations.

For others the doubts are darker. The post-war program lately produces more economic dislocation than they expected and more political turmoil than they can stomach. It also produces hypocrisy. Russians are expected to swallow the corruption of Yeltsin being foisted on them. But Western elites can’t even handle a few Facebook memes.

In some of those rooms of Atlanticists, there is a little guilt, too. Don’t the financial institutions in the city of London depend on the fortunes of Russian oligarchs? So too the personal wealth of our elites is partly reflected in the inflated real-estate prices of London, New York, and Paris, which depend on those Russians who buy it up and visit once every few months, if ever. Some of the children of America’s elite go to private school with these young Russian resource-heirs, the ones whose families were enriched by shock therapy.

Comments   

Some day we might learn again that Russia is simply a nation-state with its own enduring interests. We may one day accept, or at least understand, that its ugly political culture is informed by an unhappy history and unlucky geography. We may even recognize our own blunders in our relationship. Right now we are too wrapped up in our own factional domestic disputes, and too haunted by our own feeling that we lack leadership and policy wisdom, our own fear that we lack the will to maintain our way of life or the ability to change it.

But I’m not sure I long for that day. Self-knowledge of this type is usually only given to us through unspeakable tragedy. The day Russian conspiracy theories no longer amuse or soothe us will be a day when nothing can or will.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Russia cancels 4 nuke subs
« Reply #255 on: May 22, 2018, 11:36:07 AM »
Russia: Russia canceled a contract for four Borei B-class strategic nuclear submarines, citing cost concerns. It will instead purchase six more Borei A-class submarines. Has Russia canceled any other defense contracts recently?

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: CAATSA
« Reply #256 on: May 28, 2018, 08:07:27 AM »
•   Middling powers in Europe, Asia and the Middle East will face increasing pressure from Washington on their ties with Russia because of the United States' new sanctions legislation.
•   Germany, Vietnam and Turkey are some of the major states most likely to defy U.S. pressure on their Russia relations.
•   In Asia, India may struggle to cope with the U.S. sanctions, while Indonesia could go either way.
•   Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will find it easier to comply thanks to their limited links to Russia and deep defense relationships with Washington.
•   Measures such as the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act will encourage U.S. partners to adopt a more multilateral strategy in an emerging world of great power competition.

Yesterday was Tehran and today it's Moscow. As the United States, Russia and China engage in a great power competition, growing tensions between Washington and Moscow could soon have a major effect on U.S. relations with other countries. Upset by the Kremlin's actions around the world, U.S. lawmakers are hoping to hit Russia where it hurts most, its defense and energy business, through the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which applies secondary sanctions to countries engaging in business with Moscow in these fields. CAATSA has faced some resistance — not least from the commander in chief himself — but its gradual implementation promises to have far-reaching effects on all concerned.

The Big Picture

In its second-quarter forecast for 2018, Stratfor noted that the United States would turn its attention toward its competition with Russia and China. Washington already has targeted Beijing with trade tariffs, and now it is finally starting to implement measures that could change Russia's strategic ties around the world under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

See 2018 Second-Quarter Forecast
A Potent New Process

Secondary sanctions are hardly new to U.S. foreign policy. Washington used them extensively against Tehran in an effort to force the Islamic republic to modify its behavior before the Iranian nuclear deal's signing in 2015. But Russia occupies a different position from Iran in the international system as a great power that boasts robust energy relationships with Europe and China, as well as diverse defense ties with many states, particularly in Asia and the Middle East. CAATSA also targets Iran, along with North Korea, yet it is the secondary sanctions against Russia — especially those stipulated in sections 231 and 232 of the act — that could affect the United States' partnerships the most.

Under Section 231 of CAATSA, any third-country firm or individual that engages in a "significant transaction" with Russia's defense or intelligence sectors will face a penalty. Companies and individuals can apply for an exemption from the sanctions. Getting one, however, would require U.S. authorities to certify not only that the exemption would not harm the United States' national security interests but also that Russia had made "significant efforts to reduce the number and intensity of cyber intrusions."

Given that the Kremlin is unlikely to meet the second condition anytime soon, countries wishing to continue trade with Russia's defense or intelligence sectors could opt for a waiver under Section 231. The waiver, which has a maximum length of 180 days, requires U.S. officials to certify that the applicant is "substantially reducing the number of significant transactions" with targeted Russian interests. (The U.S. Congress is also currently considering the 2019 National Defense Authorization Bill, legislation that would replace the waiver process with an upfront certification that determines whether the entity in question is taking "significant and verifiable steps" or "has agreed to reduce reliance" on Russia over a "specified period.") But the waiver could draw unwanted attention to countries engaged in trade with Russia and give Washington leverage to try to exact concessions from them.

Section 232, meanwhile, focuses on energy, targeting investments of $1 million or more in Russian pipelines or support for building or operating pipelines — in goods, services, technology and information — worth an annual total of at least $5 million. Unlike those prescribed under Section 231, Section 232 sanctions are discretionary rather than mandatory.

The waiver could draw unwanted attention to countries engaged in trade with Russia and give Washington leverage to try to exact concessions from them.
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Off to a Slow Start

U.S. President Donald Trump opposed CAATSA (the act largely stems from a unilateral initiative by Congress, which took action out of concern that the U.S. leader could become too conciliatory toward Russia). Nevertheless, it passed by veto-proof majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives alike. The president then delayed its implementation beyond the Jan. 29 congressional deadline, arguing that the date signified the start, rather than the end, of the process.

Facing growing pressure from Congress, Trump has signaled that he will begin applying the law. The State Department has tried to define "significant transaction" and is already engaged in conversations with many countries on their relationships with Russia. At the same time, U.S. diplomats also tried to entice countries to expand their defense ties with Washington to compensate for the loss of Russian supplies. The overtures suggest that CAATSA's aim is not simply to penalize Russia for its perceived bad behavior but also to expand U.S. arms sales wherever possible. Still, some prominent members of the U.S. Congress are dissatisfied with the progress toward implementing the act. Key Democrats, such as Sen. Robert Menendez, and some Republicans, in fact, recently requested a rare multiagency investigation into the delays in the law's application. But regardless of the snags in its implementation, CAATSA demonstrates that the United States is more strident than ever in pushing other countries to reduce their defense and energy ties with Russia.

Addressing Russia's Worldwide Influence

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia is the world's second-largest arms exporter. From 2013 to 2017, the country accounted for 22 percent of the globe's weapons exports, lagging behind only the United States at 34 percent. (All other exporters' contributions, by contrast, are in the single digits.) Russia also has numerous clients in diverse fields that purchase its air defense systems, aircraft, missiles, ships, armored vehicles and aircraft engines. Nearly two-thirds of Russia's exports go to Asia, though the Middle East and Africa also receive a significant portion of the country's arms.

Regardless of the snags in its implementation, CAATSA demonstrates that the United States is more strident than ever in pushing other countries to reduce their defense and energy ties with Russia.
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Russia's deepest defense relationships are with China, India and Vietnam, which together account for 58 percent of Russian exports. China has received top-of-the-line Russian equipment of late, including the S-400 air defense system and Su-35 aircraft, while India and Vietnam have been purchasing and using Russian equipment since Soviet times. Farther afield, Russia has signed major arms deals with Indonesia and Turkey, and it's in talks with Saudi Arabia and Qatar over the sale of the S-400 system. The United Arab Emirates, too, is considering the purchase of Su-35 aircraft. Although these countries are some of Russia's biggest customers — or prospective customers — they aren't the only ones that could run afoul of CAATSA. States such as Algeria, Myanmar, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia also could soon find themselves in hot water with the United States because of their "significant" defense relationships with Russia.

Mulling a Response

China

As one of the biggest purchasers of Russian arms, China will likely have the most difficulty scaling down its ties with Russia — all the more so since Washington has already targeted Beijing in separate trade disputes. Its connections with Russia are so deep and strategic that China will be unlikely to make more than token concessions on its core defense purchases from Moscow. (But even without the threat of U.S. sanctions, China is destined to purchase less Russian military hardware as it develops technology that would allow it to manufacture its own arms.) Similarly, major energy projects such as the Power of Siberia gas pipeline from Russia to the Far East are more or less irreversible.

As one of the biggest purchasers of Russian arms, China will likely have the most difficulty scaling down its ties with Russia — all the more so since Washington has already targeted Beijing in separate trade disputes.
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India

Russia also has deep relations with China's rival over the Himalayas, India. Moscow supplies most of the arms for the Indian military, including combat aircraft, naval destroyers, battle tanks and a lone nuclear submarine. The BrahMos missile — the product of Russian-Indian cooperation — is a signature success for New Delhi's defense establishment that also has great export potential. Furthermore, Russian arms deals offer generous terms, such as technology transfers and opportunities for joint production, that are important to India's strategic autonomy doctrine.

If push comes to shove, India will not sacrifice its relationship with Russia. Instead, it will try to compromise with the United States by purchasing more U.S. arms or by signing the two outstanding foundational defense agreements with the country. Despite its historical links with Moscow, New Delhi has expanded its security and economic relationship with the United States over the past two decades to try to increase its clout in the global system. Their ties are now strong, and India increasingly relies on the United States to balance China's rise in Asia. As a result, Washington has greater leverage over New Delhi, which, in turn, is more vulnerable to CAATSA's stipulations than Beijing is. In the longer run, however, the CAATSA process could rekindle anti-American sentiment in the Indian defense bureaucracy and the political class, two decades after a reset in U.S.-Indian relations consigned such nationalism to the margins.

Vietnam

In Southeast Asia, Vietnam — whose military gets nearly all its equipment from Russia — also has been more open to U.S. defense ties since the United States lifted an embargo on lethal arms sales to Hanoi in 2016. The United States has sold patrol boats to Vietnam, and a U.S. aircraft carrier even docked at the country's Cam Ranh naval base. Even so, Vietnam's connections to the United States remain limited at this nascent stage of their rapprochement. That means Vietnam will be in a stronger position than India in negotiations with Washington over CAATSA — even though it has deeper ties with Russia. In fact, the CAATSA process could discourage Vietnam from further building its defense relationship with the United States, if only to avoid future compromises to its strategic autonomy.

Indonesia

Indonesia could go either way in its ties with Russia. Its military has long relied on suppliers from multiple countries, including Russia, with which it is drafting a strategic partnership agreement. Indonesia reportedly defied U.S. pressure in February when it proceeded with a new order for 11 Su-35 jets in a deal with Moscow. At the same time, though, the Southeast Asian country counts the United States as a major export destination and tends to be less assertive than Vietnam.

Turkey

Toward the other end of Eurasia, Turkey would seem to be an unexpected target for CAATSA as a member of NATO, the gold standard for U.S. alliances. But Ankara has been moving to engage in more transactional relationships with all powers, including putative ally the United States. In a symbolic departure from the practices of alliance behavior, Turkey inked an agreement to acquire the S-400 air defense system from Russia, a NATO adversary.

The Trump administration has demanded that Ankara scuttle the deal, only to trigger a hostile response from the Turkish government. Now the U.S. Congress appears to
be upping the ante with a draft defense bill that would include provisions to suspend the sale of 100 F-35s to Turkey until U.S. authorities provide a report assessing the effects of Washington and Ankara's strained relations on U.S. operations in Turkey. And as in military matters, so in energy: Ankara is expected to defy Washington on the Turk Stream natural gas pipeline between Russia and Turkey, which could become a target of sanctions. If the United States becomes insistent in its demands, Ankara could use its cooperation in Syria as further leverage against Washington.

The Gulf States

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, have far fewer defense ties with Russia than with the United States, meaning they will find it easier to demonstrate a reduction in defense transactions with Moscow.

Germany

In terms of energy, another of the United States' most enduring allies, Germany, will find itself in the CAATSA crosshairs. Large European energy firms such as Royal Dutch/Shell, Uniper, OMV and Engie could all suffer U.S. sanctions because of their financial involvement in Nord Stream 2, a controversial pipeline that will bring natural gas directly to Germany from Russia. Germany, which has publicly condemned CAATSA's provision regarding Nord Stream 2, is well-placed to resist U.S. demands, thanks to its position as a major global player. Yet its strong economic ties with the United States will also make it vulnerable to punitive U.S. action.

Risks and Rewards

Secondary sanctions are part of the United States' broader strategy to achieve a set of objectives with regard to an adversary by imposing its laws on other countries. Washington has applied extraterritoriality in this way several times in the post-Cold War era, to Cuba, Iran and Libya in the 1990s, and once again to Iran in the 2000s.
If CATSAA succeeds, the rewards for Washington will be nothing less than altering Russia's behavior or curtailing its influence in the international system.
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Most countries view energy and defense as delicate areas in which market dynamics compete with strategic considerations. Defense relations, however, naturally involve sensitivities that exceed those of energy ties. Price negotiations are often protracted, and it might take years to complete an order. Any major weapons system, moreover, requires contracts for maintenance, spare parts and potential upgrades. Supplier reliability is a huge concern — as are technology transfers and joint production, which importers value. Consequently, reorienting core defense relationships can be quite disruptive for the importer.

The CAATSA process is full of lofty ambitions. If it succeeds, the rewards for Washington will be nothing less than altering Russia's behavior or curtailing its influence in the international system. But it also carries risks. In today's world, middle powers are increasingly assertive and refuse to tie themselves to any single great power. The United States' reliance on the blunt tool of extraterritoriality could eventually backfire if it's not careful.

Crafty_Dog

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STratfor: Defiant Russia responds to US sanctions
« Reply #257 on: May 30, 2018, 12:38:44 PM »
    As the United States pressures Russia with sanctions, Moscow will use a mix of options to counter the penalties in the short term, including diplomatic negotiations and financial support for threatened businesses.
    In the long term, Russia will continue deploying a strategy to insulate its people and businesses, leading Moscow to increasingly move away from the West and toward the East.
    While Moscow may make tactical concessions to protect its economic interests, U.S. sanctions ultimately will be ineffective in compelling Russia to strategically shift its foreign policy, meaning the Russia-West standoff is here to stay.

U.S. sanctions against Russia aren't really working the way Washington had hoped. As the pressure builds, Moscow continues to duck, bob and weave to avoid the harshest blows. The Kremlin remains defiant and is even punching back at U.S. interests. What's more, Russia is working on short-term and long-term strategies to insulate its people, businesses and economy from Western penalties. U.S. attempts to alter Russia's behavior are leading Moscow to turn away from the West more and more and are also forcing some Russian companies, including the aluminum giant Rusal, to remake themselves.
The Big Picture

In preparation for Stratfor's upcoming 2018 Third-Quarter Forecast, we are releasing a series of supporting analyses, focusing on critical topics, regions and sectors. These assessments have been designed to contextualize and augment the quarterly global forecast.

 

In the 2018 Annual Forecast, Stratfor wrote that "Russia — the linchpin of Eurasia — is undergoing a shift in its foreign policy. Years of deteriorating ties with the United States and Europe have led Moscow to recalibrate its priorities and strategy heading into the new year." The United States has intensified its sanctions campaign, and this move will lead to a greater divergence in relations between Russia and the West, as Moscow increasingly looks eastward.

See 2018 Annual Forecast
See Echoes of the Cold WarSee Moscow Looks to the East
Penalties and Aluminum

In early April, the U.S. Treasury Department instituted the harshest sanctions to date against Russia. The U.S. Congress had placed heavy pressure on President Donald Trump's administration to act after it passed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in July 2017. That legislation sprang from Moscow's role in the Ukrainian conflict and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It targeted seven oligarchs, 12 oligarch-owned companies, 17 senior government officials, one state-owned defense firm and one Russian bank.

The sanctions were particularly damaging to Rusal, the world's second-largest aluminum company, and its owner, oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was also punished. They restrict access to U.S. markets and threaten companies outside the United States with penalties for "knowingly facilitating significant transactions" for sanctioned people and businesses. Rusal, which produces about 6 percent of the world's aluminum, was the only sanctioned company that has substantial dealings with U.S. firms, totaling over 14 percent of its revenues, or $1.4 billion. About 80 percent of Rusal's business is outside of Russia.
This timeline shows how U.S. sanctions on Russia affected the global price of aluminum

The sanctions have effectively shut off Rusal's access to the international financial system, prohibiting the company from borrowing in dollars and keeping many other non-U.S. companies from doing business with it out of fear that they also will face penalties. The sanctions have also shaken the global aluminum industry; they pushed prices up by more than 30 percent in their first two weeks and sent companies, including Australian-British multinational Rio Tinto and some U.S. firms, frantically seeking alternative suppliers. Given Rusal's size and global operations, the sanctions have pushed up costs to producers and prices to consumers worldwide.

Even after this global collateral damage, one thing remains unclear. Why did the United States specifically target Rusal and Deripaska in this round of sanctions? Whatever the reason, Russia has received a clear message: Any high-level figure or company is vulnerable to U.S. economic restrictions.
Building Short-Term Buffers

To fend off restrictions for now and in the near future, Russia has several options. The first is to negotiate with the United States. Indeed, Russia has indicated that it is open to the U.S. demand that Deripaska sell his 48 percent stake in Rusal. On April 23, the U.S. Treasury Department extended the deadline for U.S. companies and individuals to halt their business dealings with Rusal from June 5 to Oct. 23. On April 27, Rusal reported that it would appoint a fully independent board, along with a new management team, in hopes of getting off the sanctions list. Sources said that Deripaska and Rusal were in close communication with U.S. authorities as it took these steps. On May 25, Rusal confirmed that Deripaska had quit the boards of both it and his holding company, EN+ Group.

However, it remains unclear whether Deripaska's resignation is enough to get the Rusal sanctions lifted. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov echoed this uncertainty, saying, "The signals coming from Washington now are very contradictory, so it's hard to make any kind of conclusions." Nevertheless, negotiating may sometimes prove effective because Washington has extended one deadline for cutting business connections to Rusal and offered a path to easing or ending the sanctions. This may indicate that Washington is serious about reversing some sanctions.

Another option for Russia in lieu of Deripaska's divestment from Rusal is to provide financial support to vulnerable businesses. The country's overall macroeconomic position is relatively strong, giving the Kremlin financial tools to work with. Immediately after the U.S. sanctions were passed, the Russian government announced that it was willing to step in to assist Rusal. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov pledged short-term liquidity assistance to the company if it were needed. He also said that funds from Promsvyazbank, a lender that the country's central bank took over last year, could be used to support Rusal.
This chart show Russia's macroeconomic indicators

Moscow has also floated the idea of a temporary nationalization of the company. Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said the government could purchase at least part of Deripaska's stake in Rusal. He also said that if the divestment strategy does not work, Rusal could be converted into an exclusively domestic company. One source said that part of Russia's excess aluminum could go to the state metals and precious stone repository Gokhran, while the rest could meet the needs of the military-industrial complex. However, outright nationalization would likely come with significant economic losses for Rusal, when compared to ensuring that the company regains access to the global market.

The Kremlin is also working on another alternative: setting up legal mechanisms to offer some protection to oligarchs affected by sanctions. One of the options on the table is to set up "onshore offshore" firms in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad or in Primorsky Krai in the Far East. These businesses would be granted special tax status. Such zones would allow owners to transfer ownership of their companies back to Russia, but those businesses would still be considered to be domiciled "abroad" and could bypass the complex Russian bureaucracy involved in bringing companies onshore.

A draft bill reportedly has been circulated by the Ministry of Economic Development and is now being discussed at the ministerial level. Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev confirmed the Kremlin's plans to set up such domestic offshore districts "very soon." However, the U.S. sanctions are intensively focused on capital repatriation, making it questionable that such a scheme could work. At the same time, President Vladimir Putin has been campaigning to "de-offshorize" Russian business, but the oligarchs have been reluctant to bring their holdings and money back to Russia because of their concerns about a Kremlin takeover, making this another problematic option.
Thinking of Long-Term Insulation

Even if the United States pulls back on Rusal, Moscow cannot be sure that other firms or oligarchs won't be hit with sanctions down the line as the Russia-West standoff plays out. So, in recent years, Russia has been pursuing a long-term strategy to insulate itself from U.S., as well as European Union, sanctions.

As trade and investment ties with the West have declined since 2014, Russia has focused on expanding economic and broader political linkages — including energy exports and the sale of agricultural products and weapons — to the East. This is particularly the case with China, which has become Russia's largest trade partner, but Russia has also looked to expand economic ties with other countries in the Asia-Pacific, such as Japan and South Korea. These two countries were important participants in the most recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

But Russia isn't looking just to the east; it is also looking to the south, to the Middle East. It has been expanding trade ties with countries such as Turkey and Egypt, building out its economic relationship with Iran, and seeking greater investment and energy ties with Gulf Cooperation Council countries such as Saudi Arabia. It is looking to use the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union as a vehicle for expanding ties and signed trade agreements with both China and Iran on May 17.

Despite everything, Russia is unlikely to replace all of its Western economic ties with Eastern ones.

However, Russia is unlikely to replace all of its economic ties with the West with ties to the East. Europe, for example, will long continue to be its main market for energy exports, and the country's exposure to the U.S.-dominated global financial system can never be fully cut off. Nevertheless, the overall trade balance and economic structure that Russia is pursuing will gradually shift it away from the West. Moscow hopes this move will give it more insulation from U.S. sanctions in the long term.

Ultimately, the purpose of U.S. sanctions has been to shape Russia's behavior and force Moscow to become more compliant on key issues such as the Ukrainian conflict. However, the sanctions have so far have had the opposite effect. Russia has retained and increased its support for the separatist conflict in Ukraine, while pursuing a military buildup in areas such as Crimea and Kaliningrad. It has also boosted its involvement in areas of strategic interest to the United States, including Syria, Iran and North Korea.

During the later years of the Cold War and early years after the frozen conflict had thawed, Moscow learned that trading geopolitical concessions for economic benefits can have a net negative impact on its national security and global standing. Unless the United States takes drastic action to cut off Russia from the global financial system, Moscow is unlikely to change its foreign policy to be more compliant with the United States. As the era of great power competition intensifies, Moscow will look instead to other powers such as China and Iran to challenge the U.S. position globally. Thus, Russia may make certain tactical concessions to the United States to protect its economic interests, but the U.S. sanctions are unlikely to result in the broader strategic shifts that Washington is seeking.

Crafty_Dog

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War on the Rocks: Russia's Great Power Strategy of Brigandry
« Reply #258 on: June 15, 2018, 06:51:52 AM »
Sent to me by someone of background for whom I have high regard:

PS:  Note the references to "uni-polar" and "multi-polar".
==========================

https://warontherocks.com/2018/06/raiding-and-international-brigandry-russias-strategy-for-great-power-competition/
Raiding and International Brigandry: Russia’s Strategy for Great Power Competition
 
No one knows if the next six years of Vladimir Putin’s reign will be his last, but signs suggest they will be the most difficult for Washington to navigate in what is now widely acknowledged on both sides as a long-term confrontation between Russia and the West. Moscow has weathered an economic crisis brought on by low oil prices and Western sanctions, domestic political scandals, and international setbacks. More importantly, just as America’s own national security documents begin to frame great power competition as the defining challenge to U.S. power, Russia is yet again adapting its approach based on the experience of the past three years. Russian leaders may not have something that would satisfy the Western academic strategy community as a deliberate “grand strategy,” but they nonetheless possess a strategic outlook and a theory of victory for this competition. That theory is based less on direct competition and more on raiding, a stratagem that holds promise for revisionist ambitions and the weaker side in the conflict.

Raiding is the way by which Russia seeks to coerce the United States through a series of operations or campaigns that integrate indirect and direct approaches. Modern great power competition will thus return to forms of coercion and imposition reminiscent of the Middle Ages, but enacted with the technologies of today. Although raiding will be Moscow’s principal approach to competition, international brigandry may be the best term to describe elements of Russian behavior that the West considers to be “bad” or “malign.” These are acts of indirect warfare, both centrally planned and enacted on initiative by entities within the Russian state empowered to shape policy – often in competition with each other. Brigandry may come with negative legalistic connotations, a byword for outlaw, but here the term is meant to define a form of irregular or skirmish warfare in the international system conducted by a partisan.

Russia is, at times, miscast as a global spoiler or retrograde delinquent. Delinquents commit minor offenses and have no plan. Spoilers react to plans, but have little strategy of their own. Raiders, by contrast, launch operations with a strategic outlook and objectives in mind. And while often weaker than their opponents, raiders can be successful. The structure of the international system and the nature of the confrontation lends itself to the use of raiding, which increasingly appears to be the chosen Russian strategy. By focusing on deterring the high-end conventional fight and restoring nuclear coercive credibility, both important in and of themselves, the United States national security establishment may be fundamentally overlooking what will prove the defining Russian approach to competition.

Raiding as a tactic is not a new experience for the United States, but considered in a strategic context, the concept may lend itself more useful than the hodgepodge of gray zone, and other neologisms the community is often stuck referencing to explain the modern character of war. More importantly, raiding is a long established concept at the operational and strategic level of warfare, unlike “Russian hybrid warfare,” which has devolved into a kitchen sink discussion about Russian bad behavior. Indeed, raiding was once the principal form of warfare throughout Europe. Raiding is new in the sense that it is actually quite old as a strategy for competition between powers before the prominence of industrial scale warfare. Today, in our manuals, a raid is viewed as an operational tool rather than strategic concept, as can be seen in Joint Operations (JP 3-0), which describes a raid as “an operation to temporarily seize an area in order to secure information, confuse an adversary, capture personnel or equipment, or to destroy a capability culminating in a planned withdrawal.”

Raids are often conducted over phases, including infiltration, denying the enemy the opportunity to reinforce, followed by surprise attack and withdrawal. Raiding plays much more to Russian strengths, leveraging agility and a simplified chain of command ( i.e. deinstitutionalized decision making, and a strong desire to achieve political ends, but not to get stuck with the costs of holding terrain). This is a strategy of limited means and it is also lucrative. Thus, raiding is not about territorial expansion or global domination. We should consider this term when seeking to understand how classical great powers like Russia use their toolkits in strategic competition.

Great Power Spoiler or Great Power Raider?

Once the Cold War ended, Washington became accustomed to seeing Russia as a largely irrelevant power, unable to contest American foreign policy and too weak to effectively pursue its own interests. However, the 1990s and early 2000s were an anomalous period of time, with Russia missing as an actor in European politics, and taciturn on the international stage. In truth, it was not simply Russia’s absence from international politics, but the dearth of other powers in general that made this a period of unipolarity and the primacy of one state in international affairs well above and beyond the power of others. Denizens of Washington tended to forget or ignore the second word in the term Charles Krauthammer coined in 1990 to describe American primacy in the post-Cold War period: the “unipolar moment.”

He wrote:

The most striking feature of the post-Cold War world is its unipolarity. No doubt, multipolarity will come in time. In perhaps another generation or so there will be great powers coequal with the United States, and the world will, in structure, resemble the pre-World War I era. But we are not there yet, nor will we be for decades. Now is the unipolar moment.

That moment lasted longer than many had expected, but the decades did pass, and great power competition has reemerged.

The Russo-Georgian War in 2008 led to a turning point in bilateral relations. There was a sense in Washington that somewhere things had gone awry in Russia policy, and a desire emerged to reset relations with Moscow, in the hope that successful cooperation on areas of mutual interest would demonstrate the benefits of integration with the West, and into a U.S.-led international order. Suffice it to say that dream did not come to fruition.

Around 2015, after its intervention in Syria, Russia became increasingly seen as a global spoiler. Still the view prevailed that Moscow was resurgent, but brittle in terms of the foundations of power. This is a hubristic and overly optimistic interpretation. Such a vision is borne of the consistent mythos in America’s outlook that Russia is dangerous, but no more than a paper tiger that will eventually fade from the global stage. The endless trope that Russia doesn’t have a long game is a self-serving delusion. As Russia seeks to navigate through mounting international challenges posed by its confrontation with the United States it is increasingly forcing Washington and its allies to respond to a series of operations, campaigns, and calculated and not so calculated gambits.

Effective nuclear and conventional deterrence has long resulted in what Glenn Snyder described as a stability-instability paradox. This holds that the more stable the nuclear balance, the more likely powers will engage in conflicts below the threshold of war. If war is not an option and direct competition is foolish in light of U.S. advantages, raiding is a viable alternative that could succeed over time. Therefore, Russia has become the guerrilla in the international system, not seeking territorial dominion but raiding to achieve its political objectives. And these raids are having an effect. If Moscow can remain a strategic thorn in Washington’s side long enough for Beijing to become a global challenge to American leadership, Washington may have no choice but to negotiate a new great power condominium that ends the confrontation , or so Moscow hopes.

At the heart of a raid is the desire to achieve a coercive effect on the enemy. Even if unsuccessful, a raid can positively shape the environment for the raider by the damage and chaos it can inflict. At the tactical level, it is about military gains, but large raiding campaigns in the past sought political and economic impact on the adversary, typically ending with a withdrawal. The French word for this form of warfare was chevauchee, or mounted raid, describing an approach to conflict that eschewed siege warfare. The chevauchee was prominent in the 14th century, and the quintessential raider of that time was the English Black Prince, Edward III’s son. The Black Prince led two extensive raiding campaigns in 1355 and 1356 during the Hundred Years War, looting, burning and pillaging the French countryside. He was forced to adopt this form of warfare in part because the English lacked the means to siege French cities. Thus, the goal became to destabilize France to convince its feudal sovereigns that they were on their own. He did this with raids that targeted economic resources and thereby destroyed the political credibility of the French monarchy.

In Spain, the term for this form of warfare was cabalgadas, prolonged raiding operations conducted by infantry, a common feature of the War of the Two Pedros (1356 to 1379). In North Africa, raids were called razzia. America’s martial traditions are also rooted in raiding, from Roger’s Rangers during the French and Indian War, to the Revolutionary War, or the famous cavalry raids of the Civil War.

Russia has extensive experience in raiding as a form of warfare. The Russian term for raiding is nabeg. Long before the Mongol invasion in 1237 to 1240 and the formation of the Russian Empire, the first raids by the Rus began in 860 against the Byzantine Empire. These raids went on until 1043. Peter the Great was also no stranger to raiding operations in wartime. Hundreds of years later, during the latter years of the Great Northern War, Russian galley fleets with thousands of raiders successfully attacked Sweden, including Gotland, Uppland, and the Stockholm archipelago. The Red Army had its armored raids of World War II, like the 24th Tank Corps raid on Tatsinskaya during the last stages of the Battle of Stalingrad in December 1942.

Raiding is an effective riposte to a strong but distracted opponent, and becomes popular when the technologies of the time create a rift between the political objectives sought and the means available to attain them. This makes traditional forms of warfare too costly, too risky, or unsuitable to the goals desired. Raiding proved prevalent before the modern nation-state system was formed in 1648 and subsequently exported by Europeans to the rest of the world. However, today the modern nation-state construct is weak. Do states truly have economic, information, or cyber borders? How do you demark these borders, defend them, and deter adversaries from crossing them? Much of the infrastructure for this digital age lives in exposed global domains, lies under the sea in international waters, in space, and cyberspace. All of it is vulnerable and ripe for exploitation.

The Modern Chevauchee

Russia will continue to use other instruments of national power to raid the West as part of a coercive campaign intended to at minimum weaken and distract Washington and, at maximum, coerce it into concessions on Russian interests. This is not a short-term strategy for victory, and it would be wrong to assume that these raids are centrally directed given the diverging security factions, clans, and personalities seeking to shape Russian foreign policy. Mark Galeotti cleverly coined “adhocracy” to describe this system. The image of Putin sitting in the Kremlin pulling knobs and levers, or the mythical Gerasimov Doctrine (a linguistic invention that its author has forsworn), have become tragic caricatures in the current zeitgeist. On the contrary, raiding has historically been conducted by detachments with a simplified chain of command, pre-delegated authority, and substantial leeway in how to prosecute their campaign. Raiding is not for deliberate strategists, but for those able to capitalize on leaner, fail fast, and fail cheap approaches.

Russia is not raiding to erode the liberal international order, at least not intentionally. That is the inevitable consequence of Russian behavior from a Western perspective, but not its objective. Such evaluations are frankly expressions of Anglo-Saxon political ideology more so than astute analysis of how Moscow actually tries to influence the international system. Russia does not believe there is any such thing as a liberal international order, nor does it see NATO as anything other than America’s Warsaw Pact, an organization structured around the projection of U.S. military power. As such, what the Kremlin understands the current international order to be is simply a system built around American unipolarity, and the best way to change this construct is to accelerate a transition from unipolarity to multipolarity (or what their policy establishment now calls a “polycentric” world).

Suffice it to say this transition will take a long time because, as William Wohlforth argued in 1999, unipolarity is more stable than it seems. Before 2014, many in Moscow thought they could just wait for this shift in power to happen. It’s important to understand that Russian elites too believe time is on their side. Many misread the 2007-2008 financial crisis as the beginning of rapid decline in the West. The confrontation has now forced Russian leadership to become active in pursuing the long-stated objectives of its own foreign policy, and they won’t stop until a settlement is made.

The center of gravity, in Russian military thought, is the adversary’s will to fight and a country’s ability to engage in  war or confrontation as a system. Therefore, the purpose of operations, particularly at a time of nominal peace, is to shape adversary decision-making by targeting their economic, information, and political infrastructure. Senior Russian officers see the modern character of war (correlation of forms and methods) as placing greater emphasis on non-kinetic means, particularly when compared to warfare in the 20th century. Russia’s chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, famously had this posited as a 4:1 non-military to military ratio in one article. Another important trend in Russian military thought identifies the decisive period of conflict as the confrontation or crisis preceding the outbreak of force-on-force violence and the initial period of war. Much of this Russian discourse focuses on non-contact warfare, the ability of long range precision weapons, paired with non-kinetic capabilities in global domains to inflict damage throughout the enemy’s system.

This vision seeks to reconcile the natural proclivities of a General Staff (i.e. planning for high-end warfare, buying expensive capabilities, and seeking larger conventional formations) with an understanding that modern conflicts will play out without set battle lines and meeting engagements. Russia seeks to shape the environment prior to the onset of conflict, and immediately thereafter, imposing costs and inflicting damage to coerce the adversary, in the hope that an inherent asymmetry of interests at stake will force the other side to yield. Russian officers are certainly not partisans, nor do they vocally advocate for raiding, but it is hard to escape the fact that the central tenets of current Russian military thought resemble more the coercive theory of victory of a chevauchee than they do of industrial scale warfare.

Raiding should not be confused with hybrid warfare. Raiding is an established historical approach to warfare, with discernible phasing, objectives, ways, and an overall strategy. The application of hybrid warfare to describe Russian operations has usually been confusing and disjointed in practice. Today, the term is increasingly relegated to European conversations about Russian information warfare and political chicanery.

The Strategic Terrain of Great Power Competition

Moscow is constrained by the structural realities of its competition with Washington. There is no way for Russia to fundamentally alter a balance of power that dramatically favors the United States. America’s GDP is more than five times that of Russia’s adjusted for purchasing power parity and ten times greater in raw terms. Washington sits at the head of the world’s most powerful network of allies in Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific. And U.S. conventional military superiority is underwritten by a defense budget that is many times the size of Russia’s.

This is why Stephen Walt was right when he argued in March that the current competition is dissimilar to the Cold War (China, however, might prove a different story). It is not borne of a bipolar system, has no universalist ideological conflict behind it, and will not shape international politics as that period of confrontation did. Despite shrill cries by Max Boot, this is also no war, and the United States should do its best to keep it that way. We are still in what can broadly be described as a great power peace. Ever since the great powers built nuclear weapons, large-scale warfare has proven too risky and costly, thereby displacing competition into a host of proxy conflicts or actions short of warfare. Occasional conflicts do occur, such as the Sino-Soviet border conflict 1969, or Kargil War in 1999, but these have tended to be among young, and relatively minor nuclear powers, during the early stages of their nuclear arsenal development. Major nuclear powers, with established nuclear deterrents, eschew conventional wars because they understand that no one wins a nuclear war.

International orders historically have been created from the ashes of a great power war. As such, powers that want to create a multipolar world order have no quick or easy way of realizing such a vision. Therefore, Russia is stuck playing on a largely fixed strategic board, where the rules and institutions created by the West both favor the United States and constrain revisionism. That’s the end of the good news.

However, not all is well with the U.S.-led liberal international order. One need only to look to Russia’s war with Ukraine, successful projection of power in Syria, and sustained efforts at political subversion. Russia’s strategy is aimed at pursuing a great power condominium, seeking to secure former Soviet space as a de facto sphere of influence and its status as one of the principal players in the international system. The approach is rooted in convincing the United States that Russia is a great power with special rights, including the primacy of its security over the sovereignty of its neighbors and a prominent role in organizations governing world affairs. The Russian dream is to return to a status and recognition the Soviet Union held during a very particular time of its history, the détente of 1969 to 1979, when Washington saw Moscow, albeit reluctantly, as a co-equal superpower. In the face of structural constraints, Russia has found a viable path to getting what it wants from the United States via a strategy of coercion, leveraging raids and a wider campaign of international brigandry to impose outsized costs and retain Western attention.

In the early 2000s, when Russia was weak, Putin hoped to make a deal, trading Russian support for the U.S. so-called War on Terror in exchange for certain prerogatives: being treated as a great power, a free hand in its near abroad, and a U.S. ‘hands off’ approach in the former Soviet space. Back then, Moscow sought to explain why Russia deserves a seat at the table, but it was judged in Washington as too weak and irrelevant. When that approach didn’t work, Russia sought to demonstrate that its power and influence was grossly underestimated. Starting with the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, Moscow began using force to prevent NATO expansion. In Ukraine and Syria, Russia illustrated to what at times seems an overly post-modern Western political establishment that military power is still the trump card in international relations, despite what then-Secretary of State John Kerry had to say about 19th century behavior.

Russia’s successful use of force got the West to rethink Moscow’s capabilities and intentions, but it did not lead to a recognition of Russian interests, or a renegotiation of the post-Cold War order and Russia’s place in it, as the Kremlin had hoped. In place of a great power condominium, Russian leaders earned a lasting confrontation. Russia may have the power to filch Crimea from Ukraine, but it is still judged too weak to force a renegotiation of the security framework in Europe or attain major concessions from the United States. After Congress passed  sanctions in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in July 2017 and the executive branch closed ranks to prevent any rapprochement, it became clear that no deal was in the offing between the Kremlin and the White House.

Russia still seeks recognition of its great power status in the international system, believing that with it will come privilege,  security, and a privileged sphere of influence over its neighbors. The Russian leadership’s strategic outlook has not changed, but demonstrating renewed military strength and resolve has proven insufficient for their country to get a deal with the United States. Washington is still full of policymakers who see Russian power as brittle, believing Moscow doesn’t have a long game. The Russian leadership has no alternative but to settle in for a prolonged geopolitical confrontation, banking on their own resilience, and the ability to impose costs on the basis of an old and familiar strategy of raiding.

Goodbye Nation-State, Hello Raiding

Ironically, as the driver of globalization and the growth of global interdependence, it is the West that has done the most to make raiding against itself so lucrative. Global connectivity, labor flows, migration both legal and illegal, proliferation of information technologies such as social media, together with the creation of supranational entities like the European Union are all enabling factors. Great powers like China and Russia often strive for autarky, seeking to fence off their kingdoms from influences that might create interdependence and allow uncontrolled outside influence. Beijing built the ”great firewall of China,” while Russia has also sought to wall itself off and impose statist control over the invisible ties that connect it to the rest of the international community.

Moscow’s latest battle that sparked protests was its attempt to censor Telegram, a popular messaging app, a contest which has escalated into millions of IPs blocked. These countries seek to create advantage in the great power competition by securing themselves from those technological trends which make modern states borderless. They are building forts. At the same time, they have come to recognize that liberal democracies are open plains ripe for raiding. The 21st century, with all its technological advancements and global interconnectedness, is naturally reviving forms of warfare that shaped Europe in 13th and 14th centuries.

Cyber operations are perhaps the most obvious instrument for modern day raiding. Both Russia and China have made good use of it to raid the U.S. politically and economically, pillaging and looting like in the days of yore. Those Russian attacks not intended to damage are perhaps even more worrisome intrusions designed to gain access and lay the groundwork for future strikes against critical infrastructure such as “energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation and manufacturing.” Russia’s recently closed San Francisco consulate was reportedly an intelligence hub for physically mapping fiber optic networks, and a host of activities described as “extraordinarily aggressive intelligence-collection efforts” considered to be “at the very forefront of innovation.”

However, military raiding is back as well. The Russian campaign in Ukraine’s Donbass region is only posing as a form of industrialized warfare. In reality, this was meant to be a raid. It began with infiltration, and its strategic centerpiece is a low-cost effort to coerce Ukraine into federalization in a bid to retain control over Kyiv’s strategic orientation. Moscow never wanted to hold on to the Donbass and still does not. If anything, it long sought to return it to Ukraine in exchange for federalization, though, at minimum, Russia is happy at the destabilizing effect that this conflict has on Ukraine’s policy and economy. Put aside cyber and political warfare campaigns, the four-year conflict in Ukraine is at face value a sustained raid that Moscow had hoped to close out with the Minsk I and Minsk II agreements. Russia empirically lacks the manpower to take over Ukraine, nor did it want to own and pay for parts of the country either. At its core the war in the Donbass is the modern equivalent of the Black Prince’s great chevauchee campaigns in France.

Raiding is not a direct imposition by conquest, nor is it a fait accompli. Behind a raid lies neither the desire for domination nor for limited territorial gains. From the outset, the adversary seeks to withdraw. This is why Crimea does not fit this model, although there is much evidence to suggest that Russia initially seized Crimea without the intent to annex it ( i.e. it was first meant as part of a game of coercive diplomacy). That said, Ukraine illustrates the fundamental problems with raiding: Raids are easier to launch than they are to manage. The fitful and messy escalation in Ukraine is a hallmark of raiding, when the character of war is not defined by two armies meeting in the field, or a militarily superior power seeking to simply impose its will on a weaker adversary via large-scale industrial warfare. If Russia wanted to crush the Ukrainian military, it could do it, but instead it wants to raid. Since 2015, the conflict has evolved to unconventional warfare throughout Ukraine’s territory, with state-sponsored assassinations, acts of terror, and industrial sabotage becoming the norm.

As Russia grows more confident, and the confrontation intensifies, raiding may become more military in nature. Moscow’s position in Syria is ideal for campaigns elsewhere in the Middle East where it can establish itself as a power broker on the cheap, with countries in the region already choosing to hedge and deleverage from their dependency on relations with the United States. This is ultimately an iterative experience: Some raids or acts of brigandage have clearly backfired. The best recent example of blowback was the failed Russian mercenary attack on February 7 east of Deir Ezzor. That night in the desert was the brainchild of one of Russia’s “mini-garchs” and infamous backers of the Wagner mercenary group, together with the internet troll factory, Yevgeny Prigozhin. While not exactly the brightest horseman, he has been closely linked to Russian efforts in information, political, and other forms of indirect warfare.

The Middle East is a flanking theater in the competition, one where the United States is visibly weak, and its allies are interested in any alternative external power to reduce their own dependency on Washington. Russia will look for ways to raid America’s influence there without taking ownership, security responsibilities, or otherwise over extending itself. The military campaign in Syria came cheaply, taught Russia that it can indeed project power outside its region, and challengeds America’s monopoly on use of force in the international system.

The Black Prince’s Strategy

Forget the decisive Mahanian battle. The typical conventional wars, which the United States frequently wargames, but probably will never get to fight (thanks to nuclear deterrence), are poorly aligned with how adversaries intend to pursue their objectives. Avoiding disadvantages in direct competition is undoubtedly important, as Russia and China have equally invested in conventional and nuclear capabilities, but it is precisely because of our investments in these realms that we have made raiding lucrative. The surest way to spot a raid is when the initiating power doesn’t actually want to possess the object in contest but is instead seeking to inflict economic and political pain to coerce a more important strategic concession out of their opponent. This is not to say that limited land grabs or conventional warfare will disappear from the international arena, but raiding poses a more probable challenge to the United States and its extended network of allies.

Great power raiding is not meant to represent a unified field theory of adversary behavior in the current competition. Not everything aligns neatly with this concept, nor can the actions of a country with numerous instruments of national power be reduced so simply. Nonetheless, raiding for cost imposition and outright pillage, together with other behaviors by intelligence services and elites that may be summed up as in international brigandry, do encapsulate much of the problem. The Russian long game is to raid and impose painful costs on the United States, and its allies, until such time as China becomes a stronger and more active contender in the international system. This theory of victory stems from the Russian assumption that the structural balance of power will eventually shift away from the United States towards China and other powers in the international system, resulting in a steady transition to multipolarity. This strategy is emergent, but the hope is that a successful campaign of raiding, together with the greater threat from China, will force Washington to compromise and renegotiate the post-Cold War settlement.

Can Russia win? If winning is defined as Moscow attaining influence and securing interests in the international system not commensurate with the relative balance of power, but rather based the amount of damage they have inflicted by raiding – quite possibly. If the raider has staying power, and makes a prolonged strategic burden of itself, it can get a favorable settlement even though it is weaker, especially if its opponent has bigger enemies to deal with. Throughout history, leading empires, the superpowers of their time, have had to deal and negotiate settlements with raiders.

Here, conventional military might and alliances count for a lot less than you might hope. Today, you don’t need mounted riders for a raiding campaign or for acts of international brigandry. Moscow successfully rode past NATO, all of America’s carrier strike groups, and struck Washington with a campaign of political subversion. The technology involved may be innovative or new, but this form of warfare is decidedly old. To deal with it, Washington will not require panel discussions, new acronyms, and the construction of a center of excellence, but instead to revisit the history of conflict, international politics, and strategy.

Michael Kofman is a Senior Research Scientist at CNA Corporation and a Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute. Previously he served as program manager at National Defense University. The views expressed here are his own.

Crafty_Dog

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A different point of view.
« Reply #259 on: June 15, 2018, 07:56:23 PM »
Two friends of mine just got back from Russia. Our view of thing is so slanted it is becoming amusing. No culture or society is perfect or without problems but Russia seems to be going up while we continue to slide. Young people on public transportation routinely give up seats for older passengers, people show respect for religious ideas, unnatural feminism and homosexuality are culturally discouraged.

We play nasty games (i.e. try to influence the election of the prime minister of Israel) with other counties and then act surprised that others do the same. In the cyber world:

The Five Eyes. Flashpoint report author Jon Condra, director of East Asian Research and Analysis, also examined cyber threat capabilities of the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada, collectively referred to as “The Five Eyes,” and determined that they “together represent the pinnacle of cyber capabilities of all actors in cyberspace.” He concluded, “Their broad reach, unparalleled levels of technical sophistication and high levels of coordination make them formidable adversaries for those who are targeted for either the purposes of intelligence collection, disruption or destruction during wartime.” While Flashpoint indicated that the Five Eyes do not carry out highly disruptive or destructive attacks against allied or Western systems, especially during peacetime, it should be noted that the U.S. has recently been targeted by a mysterious online group dubbed the “Shadow Brokers.” The group has repeatedly released alleged U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) hacking “data,” such as the EquationDrug files and the Lost in Translation dump that details SWIFT and Windows OS-based exploits and payloads. According to Flashpoint, the Shadow Brokers also released “evidence pointing to an ostensible NSA-backed campaign targeting financial institutions, particularly those located in the Middle East.” Also, the EternalBlue exploit, discovered by the NSA and subsequently leaked, was discovered in the global ransomware worm WannaCry. “Then there’s really ham-fisted stuff like the U.S. government trying to pin WannaCry on North Korea, in order to get everyone to forget that the exploit WannaCry was built on was a CIA exploit that was leaked, probably, by the Russians,” says Ranum. “It’s totally North Korea’s fault that we built a weapon and someone used it, right?”

G M

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America really did have a Manchurian Candidate in the White House
« Reply #260 on: July 05, 2018, 06:54:52 PM »
Manchurian president.

Pretty sloppy tradecraft, KGB recruited assets are not supposed to openly meet with their handlers to avoid this very thing.



http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304177104577305182847032866.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond

By CAROL E. LEE
SEOUL—U.S. President Barack Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday that his re-election campaign has tied his hands in resolving differences with Russia over U.S. plans for a missile-defense system in Europe, and suggested an agreement would be more likely after November
 
"This is my last election, and after my election I'll have more flexibility," Mr. Obama said to Mr. Medvedev after a meeting in Seoul, according to audio picked up by television cameras that apparently wasn't intended to be heard by reporters.  (!!!)

"I understand," Mr. Medvedev replied.

"I transmit this information to Vladimir," he added, referring to incoming Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House confirmed that the exchange came after a discussion about the missile-defense shield, saying in a statement that the issue, which has strained U.S.-Russia relations, won't be resolved before Americans vote in November.

Mr. Medvedev said on Friday that Russia was unconvinced that a planned U.S.-led missile defense shield in Europe is meant to deter an attack by countries such as Iran.

continued
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/1/us-really-did-have-manchurian-candidate-white-hous/


America really did have a Manchurian Candidate in the White House

With the presidential seal on the wall behind him, President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on the White House campus in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, about how middle class Americans would see their taxes go up if Congress fails to act to extend the middle class tax cuts. The president said he believes that members of both parties can reach a framework on a debt-cutting deal before Christmas. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
With the presidential seal on the wall behind him, President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on the White House campus in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, about how middle class Americans would see ... more >
 
By L. Todd Wood - - Sunday, July 1, 2018
ANALYSIS/OPINION:

After returning from a tour of some of the war zones in the Middle East — which ended with the Free Iran Gathering 2018 in Paris — I am struck by the realization that America really did have a Manchurian Candidate in The White House for eight years. If you look at the evidence, there really is no other conclusion. The calamitous consequences of the Obama presidency will be felt for the foreseeable future.

In the short year and a half that President Trump has been in office, he has put in place policy that has mitigated the damage that President Obama inflicted on our national security and on our allies. The speed with which Trump has been able to turn things around points to the diabolical depths the Obama administration went to in order to undermine our national strength and way of life. All Trump had to do was stop doing things that hurt America; America could then take care of itself. The results are plain as day. However, it will take decades for the Obama damage to be completely undone. The deviousness of the Obama sedition runs deep.

Think about it for a moment. If you wanted peace in the Middle East, why would you throw away the trillions of dollars spent, as well as the lives of thousands of American souls, by irresponsibly pulling out ALL American troops from Iraq? No matter your thoughts on starting the war, pulling out was an irresponsible thing to do. We still have troops in Germany, Korea and Japan, for God’s sake. Why? For stability, that’s why. As Colin Powell said, we broke it, now we own it. It was a given that instability would follow the force withdrawal. When you combine this act with the reality that Obama never really did try to defeat the Islamic State, what conclusion can you come up with? Trump defeated them in a few months. The conclusion is obvious: Obama really didn’t want to destroy them.

Why did Obama and Hillary take down Moammar Gadhafi, who had already given up his nuclear weapons? Was it to destabilize Libya, where ISIS could gain another foothold? Why did Obama help install the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? What was the agenda behind the so-called Arab Spring?

However, the coup-de-grace of anti-American activity was the JCPOA, or, to say it another way, the agreement to give Iran everything it wanted, including nuclear weapons and money — lots of money — which it immediately used to further destabilize the region, and existentially threaten the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel. To take it a step further, why didn’t Obama support the opposition against the Mullahs in 2009 when there was an obvious chance for regime change in Iran? Why didn’t Obama confront Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons use? One of the main unanswered questions is what ties did Valerie Jarrett really have to the Iranian regime?

I won’t go into why Obama ran up more debt for the United States than all previous presidents combined. I won’t ask why he weakened our armed forces. I won’t ask why he used tyrannical policies, like using the agencies of the federal government to go after his political opposition. I won’t ask why he politicized our security apparatus in an attempt to frame President Trump.

What I will say is that there was a big fox in the hen house for eight long years. Eight long years for people like Brennan, Hillary, Kerry, Clapper, Comey and Jarrett to really hurt us regarding our safety and security.

Trump has a lot of house cleaning to do. Thank goodness he’s being quick about it.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2018, 08:08:51 AM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: What Putin wants from Trump
« Reply #261 on: July 13, 2018, 07:50:02 PM »
What Putin Wants From Trump
The U.S. President wants better relations. The price will be high.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, July 12, 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, July 12, 2018. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Associated Press
By The Editorial Board
July 12, 2018 7:32 p.m. ET
283 COMMENTS

Donald Trump meets Vladimir Putin Monday in Helsinki, and if the U.S. President has an agenda beyond dominating the headlines and taunting his domestic opponents, it isn’t apparent. That won’t be the case with Mr. Putin, who has spent 18 months sizing up the American President and will be looking to get the most out of a weak Russian hand.
Foreign Edition Podcast
Liu Xia's Freedom; Pompeo's Pyongyang Flop

In 18 years running Russia, Mr. Putin has outfoxed two previous U.S. Presidents who sought better relations. The Russian makes promises to win concessions but then typically reneges or moves to exploit what he perceives as U.S. weakness. George W. Bush at least negotiated the end of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that stifled missile defenses, but Mr. Putin rolled over Barack Obama like T-14 tanks in a Ukrainian corn field.

So let’s assess the summit in advance by what Mr. Putin wants now from Mr. Trump. The U.S. President considers himself a shrewd negotiator, so we can measure the results by how much of the Putin agenda the former KGB operative gets Mr. Trump to concede.

• Prestige. Mr. Putin’s top priority at all times is shoring up his political standing at home, where he lacks democratic legitimacy. This means striding the world stage as if Russia is again a global power, and Mr. Trump is helping Mr. Putin on this score merely by meeting him on equal terms. The Russian will also want Mr. Trump to endorse Mr. Putin’s denials about meddling in the 2016 election—which he will advertise as official absolution.

Mr. Putin has been persona non grata in Europe since he invaded Crimea in 2014, and he wants Mr. Trump’s help with rehabilitation. Expect Mr. Putin to flatter Mr. Trump for his willingness to disrupt global norms. He’ll also want Mr. Trump to repeat his recent comments that Mr. Putin should rejoin the G-7.

• Syria. Mr. Putin has accomplished what he sought when he barged into Syria in 2015. He’s saved Bashar Assad, fortified long-term military bases, and replaced the U.S. as chief power broker in the region. He wants Mr. Trump to validate these gains and withdraw U.S. troops from eastern Syria.

In return Mr. Putin may promise to help the U.S. contain Iran’s presence in Syria, though there’s no guarantee he can do so, given Iran’s investment in Mr. Assad. The Russian knows Mr. Trump is eager to bring U.S. troops home and might rely on assurances on Iran the way he did on the “de-escalation” zone in southwestern Syria. Mr. Putin has helped Mr. Assad bomb the opposition in that part of Syria despite the Russian’s assurances.

• Ukraine. Mr. Putin wants Mr. Trump to accept his Crimea annexation, perhaps in return for recommitting to the Minsk negotiation process for eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces started another illegal war. Mr. Trump has already blamed Barack Obama for losing Crimea, essentially a unilateral concession that Mr. Putin will pocket. The Russian will also try to get Mr. Trump to stop providing Kiev with lethal weapons.

• Lifting sanctions. This is Mr. Putin’s top near-term priority. He needs to be able to enrich his cronies, and U.S. and European sanctions have become a major problem. The Russian will play to Mr. Trump’s dislike for the European Union by suggesting Mr. Trump can come to an independent deal over Ukraine, Syria and sanctions. Mr. Putin knows that the Italian, Hungarian and Greek governments are wobbly on sanctions, and he’d like Mr. Trump to stir more dissension in the EU.

• The trans-Atlantic alliance. Mr. Putin knows that the stronger NATO is as a military force, the riskier it is for him to engage in foreign adventurism. The Russian’s long-term goal is to erode the West’s political will to add to its capabilities as the memories of Crimea fade. Mr. Putin will do whatever he can in Helsinki to underscore Mr. Trump’s frustration with Europe that was on display this week at the NATO summit, planting the seeds of future discord.

• Arms control. Mr. Trump has been floating the idea of new arms talks with Russia, though over what isn’t clear. No doubt Mr. Putin’s spies have told him that Mr. Trump wants to be known as a nuclear peacemaker. And Mr. Putin may try to exploit that desire by offering a new round of talks to reduce the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

The problem here is that the Pentagon believes Mr. Putin is violating his current arms treaties with the U.S. This includes deploying intermediate-range cruise missiles in Europe that are banned under the 1987 INF Treaty. But that might not stop Mr. Trump from thinking he can change Mr. Putin’s behavior.
***

Mr. Trump clearly believes that Mr. Putin’s Russia is not the security threat that the Pentagon does, and he’s intent on showing that the two countries can get along. The wily Russian knows that too, which is why we should watch what he gains for smiling across the table

Crafty_Dog

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Helsinki
« Reply #262 on: July 17, 2018, 07:23:38 AM »
WTF just happened?



DougMacG

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Re: Helsinki
« Reply #263 on: July 17, 2018, 08:05:14 AM »
WTF just happened?

I've only heard the critics; none of us heard the actual talks.  Suffice it to say that when Rand Paul compliments your foreign policy you've had a bad day.  

The relationship with Russia is strategic and complicated.  The election interference part is an annoyance and distraction to Trump, and no, he doesn't trust Clapper, Brennan, Comey, McCabe, Ohr, Smirk et al.  There are real things Trump wants from Putin, Syria, Iran, North Korea and China issues come to mind.  There are things Putin wants from Trump, sanctions relief and backing off of certain moves like moving bases and bases into Poland perhaps and energy price issues.  Most likely they made no real progress on those except to get their most private thoughts and threats said and heard.

Then they head out into the cameras and the questions and Trump apparently had a goal of not salting potential wounds while he sets out to achieve this or that with this (other) egomaniac, and Trump knows quite well how thin skinned, narcissistic egomaniacs think.

When you win real concessions peacefully from geopolitical partners and foes, there is a something you need to give the leader of the other side called saving face.  Nothing I'm sure was accomplished so far but Trump for some reason decided that in this press conference he will prove to Putin that he can stroke his ego in public and show respect - as a tactic toward specific ends.

Clear to all but half unspoken is that Trump has both been extremely tough on Russia on policies crucial to our interests and nice to him in person in front of cameras.  All media and establishment see this and make comment on one aspect and not the other.

The media and experts were wrong before, every time with Trump and often with others:

Reagan Flubs Reykjavik Summit
At his big meeting, the President’s obsession with Star Wars allowed Gorbachev to outmaneuver him on arms control
https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/reagan-flubs-reykjavik-summit-118796/

Then of course there is the elephant in the room, the Left-Russia schizophrenia.  It was about a minute ago the Left laughed when Romney thought Russia was a larg geopolitical threat.  What an idiot!  The eighties called and want their foreign policy back, ha ha ha.
https://www.mediaite.com/tv/rothman-msnbcs-most-embarrassing-mockery-of-romneys-russia-warnings/
http://thefederalist.com/2016/07/25/5-times-liberals-mocked-mitt-romney-for-warning-about-russia/
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/22/obama-romney-russia_n_2003927.html

Time will tell where this leads.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2018, 08:13:35 AM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: US-Russia
« Reply #264 on: July 17, 2018, 04:11:33 PM »
Pasting RickN's posts here on this thread:

rickn
Insert Quote
Trump now says that he meant to say, "Why wouldn't it be Russia?"  instead of "Why would it be Russia?"

OK.  You must be careful with the double negatives.
Posted on: Today at 01:50:02 PM
Posted by: rickn
Insert Quote
A lot of people are criticizing Trump for not saying that he believes the intelligence assessment of Russian interference over Putin's denials.

I think that Trump handled the issue properly, but not artfully.

Mueller's Friday the 13th indictment of those 12 Russian operatives turned a counterintelligence issue into a matter of US criminal procedure.  As Andy McCarthy noted correctly, because the indictment asserts US jurisdiction over their actions, the Mueller indictment granted those 12 Russian defendants the full protection of the US Constitution.  For federal court defendants, this involves especially Amendments 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.  And this also includes the presumption of their innocence.

If Trump answers that question by saying that he believes the US intelligence assessment over Putin's denials, then he has prejudged the case and Mueller's ability to prosecute those 12 defendants successfully would have been reduced significantly.

Whether or not Trump had thought the matter through this far is unimportant.  Whatever the motivation for his answer, the answer was the correct one.  Trump cannot have an official opinion about the evidence against these 12 defendants now that Mueller made the matter one of criminal justice instead of counterintelligence.
================

Rick:

Nice!

Crafty_Dog

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ccp

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McCarthy may want to listen to this take
« Reply #266 on: July 18, 2018, 08:57:21 AM »
From Professor Emeritus Stephen Cohen who actually applauds Trump and points out we certainly are in a dangerous new Cold War and puts much Blame on Bush the second and Obama:

http://podbay.fm/show/popout.php?id=589864479&e=1531887290

Trump was loathed by those who could not understand how he, the weakest Republican candidate in decades (though I am not sure that McCain or Bob Dole could be considered any better)
that they will never accept him .  He went from being loathed to now being a heretic from those who made lots of money , careers out of blaming the big bad Russia to saying America also shares some blame.  
 Cohen feels that US blame is in area of "80%"

I would like to hear more of what he thinks about Putin's kleptocratic reign but hat is another story.

If you see two Cohen podcasts go to the second one which is from last night . 

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Thinking about the Trump-Putin Meeting
« Reply #267 on: July 18, 2018, 12:49:00 PM »
Thinking About the Trump-Putin Meeting

By and large, high-level summits don’t matter. Agendas are set weeks in advance. A series of agreements – mostly symbolic – are negotiated ahead of time, with documents ready to be signed. Private meetings usually involve several aides to help the leaders and to ensure that they stick to the script.

President Donald Trump approaches summits differently from his predecessors. Rather than months of preparation at lower levels, he enters meetings prepared to improvise. He has been deeply criticized for this approach, particularly by those officials who would normally be called upon to prepare for meetings, but it isn’t clear that the old method worked. It tended to minimize gaffes, but it also homogenized the meetings, tying the hands of the president – who was elected, after all, whereas the minions were appointed. Trump’s desire to be free to interact and deal is not inherently a bad idea, as it would turn summits into authentic meetings, but the complexities of domestic and foreign politics require discipline.

Only a handful of people know exactly what was said during the private meeting on Monday in Helsinki between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the world bore witness to the post-summit Q&A with the media. The American president was not restrained by his advisers, nor was he bound by his prepared remarks. He was, however, constrained by domestic politics. World leaders are politicians, and politicians have publics – whether in democracies or dictatorships – that they must answer to.
The weaker the political positions of leaders are – or the weaker they perceive their positions to be – the more they will speak to their public. Their statements will shift away from the matter at hand to try to buttress their political position at home. They can do this in several ways, including by using the occasion as a platform to attack domestic opponents. This is what happened at the Trump-Putin meeting. Putin is politically strong, and for him, simply appearing confident was enough. But Trump is embattled, and he chose to focus on domestic issues. A major one is the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Since the summit was with Putin, and Trump’s focus was on domestic politics involving Russia, the confluence led him into difficult places.

Trump’s most interesting comment came as a tweet before the press conference, though he reaffirmed the comment’s sentiments during the conference. He said that U.S.-Russian relations had reached their lowest point ever and that it was the United States’ fault. The first part is suspect given events like the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the startling part was the assertion that the U.S. was to blame. What I think Trump was trying to do was to attack the Obama administration for trying to isolate Russia rather than engage it. There is an argument to be made for that position, but it wasn’t clearly expressed in the tweet.

The decision by Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation into Russian meddling, to indict 12 Russians the Friday afternoon before the summit clearly threw Trump off balance. It isn’t clear that Mueller had to do this when he did, given that there was no chance whatsoever that the Kremlin would extradite them. Putin hinted that if Mueller wanted to question them, the Russian government would then want to question Americans accused of committing crimes in Russia, citing one case in particular. Since U.S. foreign intelligence must break laws daily in Russia to do its job, an agreement on this would open a can of worms no one wants.

One explanation for the timing of the indictments is that Mueller was oblivious or indifferent to the fact that there was a summit meeting the following week. Another explanation is that in performing his job as special counsel, Mueller saw an opportunity to fluster Trump and he used it, prioritizing his role in the investigation over U.S. foreign policy. In any event, the indictments dominated the press conference, with American reporters hammering on whether Trump endorsed them. Trump could have answered that they were only indictments and not convictions and that he would let the judicial system decide this, but instead, he essentially took Putin’s line, dismissing U.S. intelligence findings. (Trump walked back those remarks on Tuesday.)

This brings us to the subtext of the investigation, which is that Trump is in some way under the control of Russian intelligence. The press conference should put those concerns to rest. If he were, the Russians never would have permitted Trump to reject U.S. intelligence findings or side with Putin. Indeed, it would have been unwise to hold a private meeting between the presidents in the first place. The Russians would be doing everything in their power to enhance Trump’s political standing in the United States and to make him appear anti-Russian. They would never allow anyone to imagine he was working for them. They would use him in different ways. Trump would have attacked Putin directly at the press conference.

The pressures on Trump are mounting, whether he is concerned about something he did or simply under the normal pressure that comes with being under constant investigation. His desire to challenge what he sees as tormentors on all fronts has become powerful, and it broke out around the meeting in Helsinki. Putin undoubtedly was pleased, and the world media declared it a major setback for the United States.

In actuality, at most it hurt the career of a single politician, and more likely it didn’t do even that. The American public is fully aware of Trump’s personality quirks and public statements. His approval rating has ticked up in recent months, reaching as high as 47 percent according to Rasmussen for the month of June. This is one of the higher results, but it’s pretty strong for a president at this point in his presidency. There are voters who will despise him regardless of what he does, and others who will admire him regardless of what he does. Trump’s popularity won’t surge or plummet simply because he behaved like himself.

As to American standing on the world stage, that too is consistent. Most dislike the United States, but none can dismiss it. In my travels, I found many countries that held President Barack Obama in withering contempt. President George W. Bush was regarded as incompetent. Dislike of the president for being unsophisticated, or the U.S. for being naive or ruthless (sometimes both, somehow), is not new, although there is no question that Trump has created vast new opportunities for critics.

But the United States is the world’s largest economy, the engine of global technological innovation and the only global military force in the world. It is also the largest importer, and Germany’s largest customer, for example. German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be offended by Trump, but in the end, her country needs the American market. The objective realities of U.S. power trump the behavior of the president. Similarly, summits must be put into context. They are meetings between people, some of whom have enough political support to do what they say they will, others who do not. But both will pass the scene long before the deep power of either country passes away. The balance of power shifts, but, except in time of war, ever so slowly. A sense of proportion is needed, but that has never been abundant in the world.

The post Thinking About the Trump-Putin Meeting appeared first on Geopolitical Futures.





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Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Bill Browder
« Reply #268 on: July 20, 2018, 01:17:53 PM »
uly 19, 2018 7:31 p.m. ET
303 COMMENTS

Vladimir Putin knows what he wants from Donald Trump, and one priority is help in silencing businessman and human-rights advocate Bill Browder. Someone should tell Mr. Trump that he and Mr. Browder were both targeted by Fusion GPS, the political gun-for-hire that midwifed the Steele dossier in 2016.

Mr. Browder has been on Moscow’s enemies list since he lobbied Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act in 2012. The law is named for Mr. Browder’s late lawyer and auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed a $230 million fraud embarrassing to the Kremlin, was arrested on trumped-up charges, and died from torture and neglect in a Moscow detention center at age 37.


The Magnitsky Act, versions of which have also passed in Britain, Canada and the Baltic states, allows for sanctions and travel restrictions on human-rights violators. The U.S. has sanctioned 51 Russians under the law. The Kremlin has been hounding Mr. Browder for years, lodging “red notice” requests with Interpol for his arrest and filing frivolous lawsuits in U.S. and British courts.

The news this week is that Mr. Putin complained about Mr. Browder in Helsinki at his news conference with Mr. Trump. The Russian accused Mr. Browder of tax fraud and “a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton, ” the latter of which looks like an unsubtle attempt to seduce Mr. Trump to help him.

The next day Russia’s prosecutor general said Moscow wants to question several U.S. officials allegedly involved with Mr. Browder, including former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. Asked about that Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said “the President’s going to meet with his team and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that.” What?

It seems Mr. Putin also sought Mr. Trump’s intervention against Mr. Browder during their private meeting in Helsinki. The State Department rightly rejected Mr. Putin’s interrogation request as “absurd” on Wednesday, but allow us to connect some dots for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Putin wants relief from Magnitsky Act sanctions and tried to lure Donald Trump Jr. to support relief in the 2016 campaign. Recall that Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya met Don Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner in June 2016 at Trump Tower on the pretext of having dirt on Hillary Clinton. It turned out she had nothing on Mrs. Clinton but wanted to lobby the two to support repeal of the Magnitsky Act.

Mrs. Veselnitskaya also worked alongside Fusion GPS to undermine the Magnitsky Act, which means Fusion was working both for the Russians to smear Mr. Browder and the Clinton campaign to smear Mr. Trump via the Steele dossier.

Mr. Browder has told Congress that Fusion spread false information to news outlets that Magnitsky wasn’t murdered. And Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson told Congress that he had planted information with U.S. media about Mr. Browder’s “activities in Russia” and his supposed “history of tax avoidance.” We doubt Mr. Putin told Mr. Trump about the Kremlin link to Fusion in their private conversation about Mr. Browder.

All of this is another way of saying to Mr. Trump that Vladimir Putin is trying to con you, sir. And on that point, the U.S. Senate did Mr. Trump a favor Thursday by voting 98-0 for a resolution warning the President not to let the Russian government question diplomats or other officials.

On Thursday afternoon the White House seemed to see where the politics of this was going when it released a statement saying that the request to interview U.S. officials “was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it.” The White House then announced that Mr. Trump will invite Mr. Putin to meet in Washington.

Mr. Trump should know that critics of the Kremlin often end up dead, and Mr. Browder is undoubtedly a target. Before he cuddles with the bear again, Mr. Trump ought to say publicly that Mr. Putin will get no help from the U.S. against Mr. Browder. And that if anything happens to Mr. Browder—if he should fall from a bridge, or be shot as he gets out of a car—the world is going to blame Vladimir Putin.

Crafty_Dog

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President Putin: How to Get the Progs to Love You
« Reply #270 on: July 23, 2018, 06:39:12 AM »
http://www.thediplomad.com/2018/07/president-putin-how-to-get-progs-to.html

President Putin: How to Get the Progs to Love You

Dear President Putin:

I know you are very busy these days trying to maintain Russia as a major power on the world stage. You had it pretty easy for most of the past decade, as your biggest "rival"--we're not really in the same league, but never mind--the USA, was governed by "pajama boys," at best, and maybe even active enemies of the USA. I wrote some time back (here, for example) about you,
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the Shining Shooting Tsar of Eurasia-- [is] arguably the smartest national leader in the world. Let me back up. "Smartest" might be the wrong word. Yes, it definitely is the wrong one. That word is too loosely defined and too easily pinned on too many. What makes Putin successful and such a formidable geopolitical foe (thank you, Mitt Romney) is not that he is just "smart," but that he is a throw-back to a different era. He hunts and fishes, and doesn't care about the political fashion and sensitivities of the day; pajama boy has no place in Putin's cage fighter universe. Despite his upbringing as a Communist, he is now devoutly religious and wants to see religion restored to Russian life. As the jihadis have discovered, they have in Putin a rival as ruthless and religiously committed as they, and not bound by the conventions of political correctness.
So you see, I have a lot of respect for you as an actor on the world stage, and am full of genuine admiration at how you could play a pretty weak hand so very well against opponents much stronger than you, well, on paper. I also wrote that, sorry, I was glad not to be in a world where Russia was the dominant power (here) and even gave advice to my leaders on how to deal with Russia's big power ambitions (here). I have written a lot more which I am sure your world class hackers can retrieve with no difficulty, or they can just Google the stuff. As you can see, I am not a big fan of what you're trying to do, but . . . well, the situation in my country has gotten so absurd I turn to you.

In November 2016, we elected a President who has been the toughest on Russia since, since . . . well, at least since the USSR became Russia. You know all the things that Trump has done better than I, and am quite certain this man was not whom you wanted in the White House. Your folks poured a lot of money into the Bill and Hillary Clinton Crime Family, and I am sure you feel a bit burned by that pointless investment. The losers of that election have tried to play political jiu-jitsu by claiming that their opponent was actually in your pocket and that we should ignore all the collusion between your people and Hillary. Our media and "Deep State," which respond to DNC dictates much as did the old Pravda to the Kremlin's, have gone full Orwell. Well, you know all about that. No need for me to spell it out for you.

You are not getting good press here. Good press is important in the USA and West. You're not getting it. The Progs who control the bulk of the media, old and new, don't like you for a variety of reasons having more to do with Prog delusions than anything real. Let me give you some advice which is inspired by Francisco Franco and Josip Broz Tito. There you had two authoritarian European dictators who did not hesitate to sentence enemies to prison and to death. They were very similar in many ways, but Tito knew how to handle the international Progs and Franco did not. Franco talked about the Church, fighting Communism, and crushing the Masons. Tito, as much if not more dictatorial than Franco, talked about the Non-Aligned Movement (he helped found it, in fact), being anti-imperialist, belonging to no side in the great battle of the Cold War, just in favor of peace, anti-colonialism, etc. All themes from Progdam. Tito knew, as I wrote here, for example, that Progs love the FAKE. They adore the FAKE. You can go to my piece, and you will see what I mean.

So President Putin, my advice for you is to go Full Fake!

Tito and Franco, for example, both wore colorful military uniforms with lots of Goering-style medals, but Tito had a snazzy Red Star on his cap. He would wear the uniform of a bloody military dictator but talk about peace, non-alignment, freeing the poor, etc. Not Franco, no, the fool was too honest for that. He just wanted to talk about crushing the Communists and the Masons. In the end, of course, Spain turned out to be a much better place to live than did Yugoslavia (RIP), but Franco (and Pinochet in Chile vs Castro in Cuba) would get no credit for that.

If you go Full Fake, then it will be OK for our President to meet you. Nobody will object. Get on MSNBC and decry the evils of imperialism in Africa and Latin America; quote Marx; talk about Frantz Fanon. You can do it. The Progs in the West will eat it up!

Regards to Sergei Lavrov and tell him I think of him often and of our days at the UN. Ask him if he remembers being trapped in a car with me in a Swiss park . . . a funny story that . . . please don't have him shot because of it . . .

Go Fake!

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Re: US-Russia
« Reply #271 on: July 23, 2018, 07:02:04 AM »
A Trump accomplishment that he  got the Left to admit the threat of Russia. George Orwell would be shocked to see these real-world players turn on a dime and deny history in any way  that suits them.

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Re: US-Russia, what Trump and Putin were really talking about in private
« Reply #272 on: July 25, 2018, 08:17:59 AM »
From the Ukraine article,

"Claustrophobic Russia"?

Russia spans 11 time zones!

My modest proposal to shake up the geopolitical balance is that while Russia turns to Europe, steals Crimea, fights for the Ukraine, threatens the Baltics, partners with Germany, and gets bogged down in a quagmire in the Middle East while plummeting oil and gas prices decimate their domestic economy, Trump should buy Siberia from Putin.


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Re: US-Russia
« Reply #275 on: August 07, 2018, 11:00:54 AM »
Certainly there are several counter points to be made, but an interesting article nonetheless.  Nice find.

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Re: US-Russia
« Reply #276 on: August 07, 2018, 11:39:36 AM »
Certainly there are several counter points to be made, but an interesting article nonetheless.  Nice find.

Agreed. I wondered if this was written by some pro-putin source. It challenges some conventional thinking and offers some perspective.

They missed the part about Putin killing all his rivals. Still we want to know how he thinks, what he faces and how their economy works. Other than the big cronies and oligarchs, I really don't know how much their economy is market versus state.

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GPF: Bolton in Russia for INF, START talks
« Reply #279 on: October 20, 2018, 12:03:02 PM »


U.S. and Russian defense. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton has arrived in Russia for defense talks. The trip will be tense, to say the least. It comes on the heels of accusations that Russia has been trying to interfere in upcoming U.S. elections – a charge Moscow believes is merely pretext for more sanctions. Yet the countries have much they want to discuss, namely the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. START will expire in 2021 if they don’t agree to extend it, and rumors circulated that Bolton may threaten to withdraw entirely from the INF treaty. (As the talks progress, keep an eye on Ukraine. The U.S. envoy to the country said the talks will go nowhere until after the Ukrainian elections next spring.) This is all a timely reminder that for all the kind words between leaders, the fundamental differences between the U.S. and Russia tend to generate conflict, not cooperation.


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A dissident's take on Russia
« Reply #281 on: October 24, 2018, 12:56:27 PM »
second post

ditor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the participants only.

Can you please give us a glimpse into your life under constant surveillance by Russian intelligence?

I'm trying not to think about this; otherwise I'd be too paranoid. As for the surveillance, it's pretty amusing, as at the end of a day there's nothing that I say in private that can be kept private. ...

I remember I was having a meeting in a cafe in central Moscow with Dmitry Gudkov, a member of the opposition in the Duma until 2016. The waiter came in and brought us coffee and put sugar on the table. I saw Dmitry's face turn pale and his voice grew insistent: "Please take it away," he ordered. The waiter seemed befuddled: "What's wrong with the sugar?" But Gudkov kept demanding that the waiter remove it from the table. "They usually put a tiny microphone in powdery sugar like this," he explained to me later.

In another case, I was in Nizhny Novgorod where I was making my documentary about Boris Nemtsov. I sat down with my cameraman to have lunch. A few minutes later, three masked men ran in and started throwing eggs at us. Surprisingly to some but not to us, they knew where we were and exactly what we were doing. The same day, in the same evening, when I was waiting for a train back to Moscow, I was met by picketing members of a pro-Kremlin group. When I got back to Moscow a crew from the pro-Kremlin NTV television channel was right there and got in my face. They knew which carriage I was in.

Are you afraid for your life?

You're asking this to somebody who's nearly been killed twice in the last three years. [Sighs]. I'm a normal human being, and fear is normal. My family, my wife and children are not in Russia. They live in the United States. ...

So far, I've been lucky. … Alas, so many of my colleagues and independent journalists weren't so fortunate — they lost their lives.

In March, I interviewed Boris Vishnevsky, one of your colleagues in the Russian opposition and a member of the parliament in St. Petersburg. When asked about Alexei Navalny, the presumed leader of the Russian opposition, he said Navalny is viewed as such only in the large Russian cities, not in the provinces. Do you agree? Is not having a single leader a good thing or a bad thing?

The most prominent and effective voice, and the strongest leader in the Russian opposition to Vladimir Putin's authoritarian regime, was the former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. There are still strong and prominent leaders in the Russian opposition today. In fact, there are many of them.

One of the wildly promulgated myths of the Kremlin propaganda machine is that, apart from Putin, there are no other (potential) leaders in Russia. How insulting it is to say so in a country with a population of 140 million, in a country which has so many talented and intelligent people.

Even today, when we live under oppression, there are many prominent and intrepid figures within the Russian opposition, such as Alexei Navalny, as well as Mikhail Khodorkovsky (after serving a six-year prison sentence, the former oil tycoon now lives in Switzerland) and Yevgeny Roizman, who was elected as the mayor of Yekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia. Because the Kremlin couldn't defeat him, the election results were annulled. He just recently vacated the office. Another bright name (in the opposition) is Lev Shlosberg, a very active and prominent political figure in the parliament of the Pskov region. He was the first to provide definite proof of the presence of regular Russian troops in the Donbas region in Ukraine in 2014. His newspaper Pskovskaya Gubernia published photographs of unmarked and anonymous graves of paratroopers from Pskov who'd been sent to Eastern Ukraine and killed. He discovered that the bodies were secretly brought back in unmarked body bags and buried like street dogs in unmarked graves with only identification numbers instead of their names. The Russian Defense Ministry has denied the fact. The newspaper paid a heavy price for the revelation, and Shlosberg was savagely beaten and stripped of his parliamentary seat. However, the people of Pskov have entrusted him again with a mandate in the regional parliament.

And then we have Dmitry Gudkov, a member of the Duma, who was planning to vie for the Moscow mayor's office but was impeded by the Kremlin because they knew he was going to collect many local votes. Another bright name in the opposition is Galina Shirshina, who was elected mayor of Petrozavodsk, a city in western Russia. There are many more names on the list.

Russian opposition to Putin seems uncoordinated and very "colorful." Both are signs of weakness. Do you agree? What needs to be done to bring the opposition together as a single powerful voice and force?

I don't think it would be right if the democratic opposition was to copy the kind of a single authoritarian leader (as we have now in the) regime in the Kremlin. Our goal is not to replace Putin with Navalny or Khodorkovsky or with anybody else. To say it illustratively, we don't strive to replace a bad czar with a good czar. We don't want any czar in Russia in our vision — that is, a modern and democratic country. As Khodorkovsky pointed out via Skype at the night session of the Riga Conference 2018 that we attended, as the opposition, we want an efficient parliamentary system functioning in the country. Russian history has proved that if there's even such a good-hearted person such as the late Boris Yeltsin, the first democratically elected president of Russia, things don't necessarily end up well for Russia and its people, because the system itself is wrong. What we need is a pluralistic government, a strong parliamentary system and many strong leaders throughout the country.

We don't strive to replace a bad czar with a good czar. We don't want any czar in Russia in our vision.

Note that most members of the opposition aren't from Moscow. They come from St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Pskov and Karelia. We've opened 30 regional branches of political opposition across the country. Our key principle is to be visible everywhere. For too long, everything has been focused on Moscow and St. Petersburg, the two largest cities.

Your chances in the provinces are slim as no business leader will support an opposition party for the simple reason that their business would be shut down by the authorities ...

That is absolutely true. Yet despite this, and despite the prevailing censorship, and despite the fact that elections in Russia are manipulated and controlled by the authorities, there have been a very few genuine cases where the opposition was allowed on the ballot and received significant support. The example of the aforementioned Yevgeny Roizman, who was directly elected as the mayor of Yekaterinburg in 2013, beating a candidate from United Russia, and Galina Shirshina, a member of Yabloko (an opposition party chaired by the Yeltsin-era economist Grigory Yavlinsky that's usually allowed to participate in Russian elections) who won the mayor's office in Petrozavodsk, prove my claim. And then we have the example of Nemtsov, who in 2013 ran successfully for a seat in the regional parliament in Yaroslavl, doing so despite the avalanche of blackmail and smear against him by the state propaganda machine. If he hadn't been killed in 2015, he would very likely have been elected to the Duma.

The Kremlin is able to maintain the image of Putin's ostensible popularity of 85 percent or so only through preventing his opponents from running in elections. It's easy to win when your opponents aren't even in the race.

Russia holds more regional elections next year. Do you believe it will be an easy grab for Putin's United Russia? Particularly in the wake of the unpopular pension reform that dragged Putin's support ratings to record lows?

Let's look at what happened during the last two weeks in Russia's gubernatorial elections in Primorsky Krai in the Far East, the Vladimir region, Khakassia and the Khabarovsk region. In each of them, the candidates put on the ballot by Putin's United Russia lost in the second round. In Primorsky Krai we saw a massive vote rigging that was so obvious that the electoral authority was forced to rerun the primary.

What is pretty amusing to me is that, for many years now, the Kremlin has learned to completely control the election process, from top to bottom. Yet with every tool in its hands to win, the Kremlin-supported candidates are starting to lose. We see a completely new situation in which, even with carefully chosen names on the ballots, United Russia fails to win. Furthermore, people are ready to vote for anybody, even a clown on the ballot, just not for the Putin party candidates. Vishnevsky, whom you mentioned earlier, recently wrote an article in which he found the trend similar to what was happening in the elections in the early 1990s. The people voted for anybody except the Communists, and now they feel the same way about the Putin candidates. It's a bad omen for Putin and his party, and let's see how it plays out in the regional elections next year.

Can you tell me something about relations between Open Russia and the other opposition parties? Do you have many branches in the regions?

Open Russia isn't a political party but a broad movement encompassing a spectrum of people representing different political views. At this point we don't plan to participate in the elections as a party. For now, we seek to cooperate with the other democratic parties out there preaching the tenets of democracy, human rights and freedom.

As of today, we have branches in over 30 regions of the Russian Federation, from Kaliningrad in the west to Vladivostok in the east.

Although we're often unable to participate in the elections, we see every election for our people and especially the youth as a training ground. Since 2015, we've put together lists of our candidates for every tier election across Russia while building a political campaign infrastructure — that is, hiring campaign managers, volunteers and so on. The bottom line is that even if you can't participate and/or win, you can still learn. Young people will need this experience when the Putin regime is gone.

Do you have a timeline for this?

I'm a historian by education, and one thing that Russian history definitely shows is that major political changes in our country can start quickly, suddenly and unexpectedly. As a historian, I don't think that Vladimir Lenin knew what was to unravel in Russia in the coming weeks after he gave his famous speech in Zurich in January 1917 to the young Social Democrats of Switzerland. He admitted to the audience then: "My generation won't live long enough to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution." Yet the revolution swept everything aside in just six weeks! Isn't it amazing? Like you, I'm old enough to remember August 1991 when one of the most oppressive regimes of the 20th century collapsed in just three days. If anybody had said in early August that year that the Soviet regime would be gone by the end of the month, nobody would have believed it.

The task of Open Russia is to prepare for a change that will happen sooner or later.

One thing that Russian history definitely shows is that major political changes in our country can start quickly, suddenly and unexpectedly.

Yet you have to agree that the arrival of ultranationalists, anti-globalists and the political novices in Europe and the United States plays into the hands of Putin who, pointing to them, can justly say: "Hey guys, either we enjoy the stability that Russia has or subject ourselves to shake-ups and the unpredictability that the West is going through?" What would be your response to this?

I don't see these as very relevant. The task of political change in Russia is in the interest of Russian citizens and can't be achieved by any international actors.

The only thing we're asking the West to do is to stay firm on the principles it preaches. We ask them not to make any cynical deals with the corrupt and authoritarian regime in the Kremlin, which so many Western leaders have embraced, alas.

It's heartening to know that some countries, such as Lithuania for example, have got even tougher on the regime over the last couple of years. Your country was the second in the European Union to pass the so-called Magnitsky Act (introducing targeted individual sanctions against the people in Putin's close-knit circle), and it was the first to implement the act in practice.

The Magnitsky legislation is the best example of a principled approach to politics.

In your speech at the recent Riga Conference 2018 you debunked quite a few of what you call "myths" about Russia. Specifically, you said that the Russians, contrary to popular belief, "don't crave the strong hand of a ruler" and that Russia doesn't want "to subjugate nations" to its will. This has to be music to Putin's ears! What makes you think so?

As I said, Russia is a country of 140 million people and has a spectrum of different views reflected by the many layers within its society.

It's very insulting for us Russians to hear people in the West equate us as a whole nation with the small clique of crooks, kleptocrats and criminals in the Kremlin, all of them coalesced around Putin.

Russia is much bigger and better than the current regime. Of course, there are people here who crave for a "strong hand" and who want to subjugate other countries. But note, there are many people in the West who vote for pro-fascist, right-wing parties today. Does it mean that those countries, and those societies, too, are not democratic already? No, it doesn't. So again, please don't equate the Russians and Russia with the Kremlin. Given a chance, the Russian people opt for democracy. In illustrating that, I can go as far back in our history as the elections to the State Duma in 1906, when the Constitutional Democrats won, or the election to the Constituent Assembly in November 1917, which was held a couple of weeks after the Bolsheviks seized power when they lost it to a party that advocated for democratic parliamentary rule. And then there's June 1991, when the democratic opposition candidate Boris Yeltsin defeated Nikolai Ryzhkov, the candidate of the ruling Communist Party, with 57 percent supporting Yeltsin and a mere 17 percent voting for his opponent.

Let everyone remember that, each time, when the Kremlin sends troops or tanks to foreign soil, there are always Russians who are prepared to stand up and say: "I don't support it!" Sometimes there are just seven people, such as in Red Square in Moscow in August 1968, when a few came to protest against the invasion in Czechoslovakia. And sometimes it's half a million people, such as in January 1991 in Manezhnaya Square where the crowd turned up to protest against the bloody events in Vilnius, Lithuania. And recently, in September 2014, tens of thousands led by Boris Nemtsov hit the streets of Moscow to protest against Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, you have to agree that the annexation of Crimea has skyrocketed Putin's ratings. Do you believe that with his support declining, a result partly of the unpopular pension reform, the Kremlin could resort to a new military action to ratchet them up?

I really don't pay attention to any polls or their results. We don't know what the majority of the Russian people think about Putin and his policies, as in a country under authoritarian regime no one is willing to speak his or her mind. Can you imagine an ordinary Russian family speaking openly to a pollster about Putin, his party or his ruling? I can't. The Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu boasted 99.9 percent support just two weeks before he was overthrown. So public opinion in an authoritarian regime is absolutely meaningless. The real picture can be — and is — stunningly different from the one the Kremlin wants us to believe.

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WSJ: Schumer's Russia Sanctions Gambit
« Reply #282 on: January 15, 2019, 08:29:13 PM »
Glad to see the WSJ's breakdown of this, otherwise I would not have known how to respond:

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

Schumer’s Russia Sanctions Gambit
There’s no evidence to doubt the Treasury’s negotiation with Rusal.
248 Comments
By The Editorial Board
Jan. 14, 2019 7:23 p.m. ET

The goal of U.S. sanctions is to change behavior. But tell that to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who is trying to score political points by killing an agreement between the Treasury Department and owners of Rusal, Russia’s aluminum giant. Mr. Schumer is talking tough on Moscow, without even trying to explain what a better final outcome would be.

In April the Treasury announced sanctions on Oleg Deripaska, one of Vladimir Putin’s oligarch cronies. Since Mr. Deripaska controls EN+ Group, which controls Rusal, both companies were implicated. But the U.S. penalty seems to have worked. In a Dec. 19 letter, Treasury told Congress it would lift sanctions on the companies—though not on Mr. Deripaska—under an agreement with the Russian parties.


The law gives Congress 30 days to overturn this action by passing a resolution of disapproval. Since it’s procedurally privileged, Mr. Schumer can force a vote—and he has suggested he intends to, possibly Tuesday. He wants to put Republicans on the spot so he can portray them as soft on Russia.

“The Treasury Department’s proposal is flawed,” the Minority Leader said, “and fails to sufficiently limit Oleg Deripaska’s control and influence of these companies.”

Did he read the same Treasury letter that we did? Under its terms Mr. Deripaska’s stake in EN+ will drop from about 70% to 45%, where it will be frozen. He will get no cash from the restructuring. Shares will be taken by VTB Bank , the Swiss mining company Glencore , and a charitable foundation.

To further dilute control, Mr. Deripaska will vote only 35% of his shares. The rest will be voted by a trust, which will be required to side with the majority of non-Deripaska shares. Shares held by VTB Bank will be voted by a third party. So will shares whose owners have “professional or family ties” to Mr. Deripaska.

EN+ will get a new board. Two-thirds of its directors will be independent of Mr. Deripaska, and half will be American or British. Rusal’s chairman will step down, and the majority of its board will be independent. The companies have agreed to auditing and reporting requirements, such as providing the Treasury with quarterly reports and board minutes.

Keep in mind, EN+ and Rusal are not accused of anything other than entanglement with Mr. Deripaska. Consider, too, the implications if Mr. Schumer succeeds in blocking the Treasury deal. Other entities under U.S. sanction will take the lesson that negotiating is fruitless and changing ownership or business practice is no guarantee of relief.

The eventual outcome with Rusal may end up worse. Russia could nationalize the aluminum producer or broker a deal for the Chinese to buy it. That would disentangle the company from Mr. Deripaska, but not in a way that advances America’s interests.

Mr. Schumer adds that the sanctions should stay because Robert Mueller hasn’t concluded his special counsel investigation. The insinuation is that President Trump could be intervening here as a favor to the Russians. There’s zero evidence for that—and the Trump Administration has been far tougher on Russia than the Obama Administration was even after the Kremlin’s 2016 election interference.

When a party under sanctions shapes up, the penalty ought to be lifted. There’s no reason Rusal should be an exception.

Appeared in the January 15, 2019, print edition.

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Re: US-Russia, What Putin would Nuke
« Reply #283 on: March 17, 2019, 11:22:00 AM »
One of those war game scenarios is described here:
https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a19087437/what-putin-would-nuke/

I don't buy it that Russia has these perfectly designed and maintained missiles and weapons, but has a failing economy and is capable of manufacturing absolutely nothing else.  Something is wrong with this picture.




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Stratfor: Russia Soft Power
« Reply #288 on: January 22, 2020, 09:22:05 AM »
second post

Russia Takes a Hard Approach to Soft Power
Kseniya Kirillova
Kseniya Kirillova
Board of Contributors
9 MINS READ
Jan 22, 2020 | 11:00 GMT
Russia's Maria Butina arrives at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on Oct. 26, 2019, after her deportation from the United States for failing to register as a foreign agent.
Maria Butina arrives home at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Oct. 26, 2019, after her deportation from the United States for failing to register as a foreign agent. Butina's engagement with U.S. conservative groups is just one example of how Russia tries to exploit societal fissures overseas.

(MIKHAIL JAPARIZDE/TASS via Getty Images)
HIGHLIGHTS
In exerting its soft power, Russia is not only trying to portray itself in a good light but also spread illusory fears, phobias and hatred in countries it sees as a threat.
Moscow, however, cannot sow discord out of thin air; instead, it seeks to exploit existing divisions in Western countries.
If Western nations are going to try and popularize their values in Russia, they would do well to consider whether their efforts will be immediately discredited by Kremlin propaganda.
For all its prodigious hard power, Russia's soft power is no trifling matter. In recent years, the Kremlin has resorted to plenty of channels to undermine Western democracies by spreading propaganda — including false-flag operations and other "information operations" — bribing officials and politicians, cultivating corrupt ties through business lobbies and immigrant organizations, targeting specific (often radical) segments of the population with carefully tailored ideologies and making special attempts to sow friction, disagreement and conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his propaganda machine have successfully convinced the population that any intimidation and crimes by authorities are justified by the unprecedented "external threat" facing Russia. They claim that the United States is to blame for all that Russia does today because they have organized color revolutions along the Russian border, developed fifth columns and so on. Russia, accordingly, is merely trying to prove that its actions are a "mirror image" of Western foreign policy. But how does Russia go about projecting its soft power, and how might Western states respond — all while avoiding taking the same path as Moscow?

A Different Type of 'Soft Power'
To one degree or another, all major states naturally use "soft power" to cultivate a positive image abroad. But if Joseph S. Nye Jr., a professor at Harvard University who introduced the term, implied soft power to mean the popularization of a certain value system and lifestyle, Moscow's actions abroad typically have little to do with positive advertising.

First, the difference lies in the goals of "soft power." Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States did not make any effort to destroy either Russia or the countries that emerged in Eastern Europe. On the contrary, the United States attempted to introduce democratic institutions — including anti-corruption bodies, a transparent and independent judiciary, fair elections and more — into the post-Soviet space. Had they taken root, these countries would have enjoyed notable improvements in their development and standard of living.

Today, it's a very different story with Moscow. Russia does not conceal its view of the United States as its primary and irreconcilable enemy, the instigator of international terrorism and the primary threat to its very existence. The Kremlin, accordingly, is seeking to weaken the United States and Europe to the greatest possible extent, undermine faith in Western democracy, destroy existing institutions and, above all, render these countries dependent, one way or another, on Moscow, making them incapable of resisting Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

Russia does not cultivate values for those it takes under its wing but rather instills illusory fears, phobias and hatred toward the things Moscow's propaganda identifies as a threat.

But while Russia, as well as its opponents, are good at inconspicuously supporting movements in other countries, the United States typically refrains from distorting the facts, spreading outright disinformation and engaging in slander. Such an approach makes the West more vulnerable to Russia's actions while simultaneously giving Moscow reason to claim that Washington "organizes" coups in other countries.

The way the United States uses "soft power" is generally more transparent and consistent with its stated goals. This means openly transmitting American values via the mass media, nongovernmental organization activities (including grants for foreign organizations), offering foreign internships, organizing educational programs and the like. Russian political scientists use almost the same channels to spread their influence in Western societies, albeit with one major difference: Russia does not cultivate values for those it takes under its wing but rather instills illusory fears, phobias and hatred toward the things Moscow's propaganda identifies as a threat.

To achieve its desired effect, the Kremlin largely uses lies, slander, mishmashed facts, conspiracy theories and a multitude of contradictory versions of reality to destroy the notion of truth and exploit the slightest contradictions within Western societies. To work with certain groups of people abroad, the Kremlin creates special "ideologies for export" — individual worldview systems aimed at specific social groups.

But along with this activity, "information operations" of a destructive nature are also inevitable. As the results of U.S. special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation about Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have shown, such operations are often conducted under a false flag; in the U.S. case, this included fake accounts on social networks established on behalf of American citizens.

The crux of the matter is that it's often very difficult to determine the line between "positive propaganda" — in Russia's case, some of the more benign educational and cultural activities that Moscow sponsors abroad — and the beginning of "information operations." These two forms of Russian soft power coexist at the same time, sometimes merging and flowing into one another, which gives the Kremlin an opportunity to occasionally transform even innocuous cultural events into a platform for "information operations."

Moscow's 'Interceptions'
Since Russia's information operations clearly don't engage in "fair play," it's extremely difficult to oppose such activity. Aggravating the situation is Russia's recent success in both discrediting Western forms of soft power at home and "intercepting" them using the channels the West created to spread its own influence.

The recent case of Maria Butina, a Russian who was convicted of failing to register herself as foreign agent in the United States, vividly demonstrates such "interceptions" by way of evangelical churches and student exchange programs — even though Russian media and officials formerly termed the influx of American missionaries into Russia in the 1990s and the development of educational exchange programs as an American "attempt at the creeping occupation" of Russia. Ultimately, it was the National Prayer Breakfast, an event organized by evangelical churches, where Butina sought to invite Russian officials so as to create informal channels of communication between them and American politicians.

The Butina case also showed U.S. law enforcement and the media how the Russian government works with foreign universities and organizes work with young people abroad. In particular, the American historian and publicist Yuri Felshtinsky noted that in October 2013, the FBI accused a Russian diplomat and head of the Washington-based Russian Cultural Center, Yury Zaytsev, of recruiting Americans as potential intelligence assets.

Revolutions will occur where there are societal sentiments conducive to their success; without them, it would be impossible to organize a revolution from outside without widespread support inside.

The FBI alleged that part of Zaytsev's mission was "sending young professionals from the United States to Russia as part of a cultural program wherein participants are evaluated and/or assessed for Russian counterintelligence purposes." In 2014, Zaytsev left the United States, but his successor in the same post, Oleg Zhiganov, was deported from the United States for the same reason in March 2018 as part of a group of 60 Russian diplomats who were accused of espionage.

Money laundering is another channel of influence that Moscow has successfully used. A few years ago, many believed that Russian oligarchs' propensity for keeping money in European and U.S. bank accounts and retaining real estate abroad made the Russian elite dependent on the West. On the contrary, it turned out that Moscow was using "dirty money" to spread corruption in the West and bribe European politicians.

Moreover, the Kremlin successfully "intercepts" projects and initiatives created by the Russians themselves, both domestically and abroad. The Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots (KSORS), which represents branches of the World Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots Living Abroad, were formally established to foster "the interaction of compatriots with Russian Federation government bodies." According to members of these organizations, the diaspora directly determined the leaders of these councils until 2014. Then, however, Russian authorities placed KSORS under the Foreign Ministry's control.

A former head of the Russian American Coordination Council from New York, Igor Baboshkin, claimed in the media that his organization "had been seized by the Russian embassy, ​​which today appoints leaders who are exceptionally favored by the Kremlin." Likewise, Russian authorities are trying to exert control over independent Russian-language media and any overseas cultural organizations through the distribution of grants and, where possible, direct administrative pressure.

Lessons to Learn
For most of this century, Moscow has accused Washington of organizing color revolutions along its borders — and not without a kernel of truth. The global reality, however, is that there are no saints: Every country supports movements in other countries that are close to them. In the end, revolutions will occur where there are societal sentiments conducive to their success; without them, it would be impossible to organize a revolution from outside without widespread support inside, as evidenced by the failure of Western-backed opposition rallies in Belarus in 2011 or pro-Kosovo rallies in Serbia in 2013.

Based on all of the above, Western governments would be wise to take note. First, before Western states make any attempts to popularize their values ​​in Russia, they might determine whether Russian propaganda has discredited the method of delivery — to say nothing of asking what, exactly, Russians want. Equally important is recognizing the "counterintelligence" aspect of certain events, as that could help the West minimize Moscow's use of bilateral communication channels for its subversive operations.

No matter how effective Russia's 'soft power' tactics may be, the Kremlin can't create problems in Western countries out of thin air. Moscow, instead, simply takes advantage of the contradictions and conflicts that are already present in Western societies.

Second, the creation of cultural and educational initiatives independent of the Kremlin among the Russian diaspora is critical. The emergence of an "alternative culture" created in Russian, but free from the influence of Kremlin propaganda, is one of Putin's greatest fears. That's why it's important to pay special attention to the Russian-language media existing in the diaspora. After all, the Russian-speaking community in places like the United States is often starved for information in Russian, allowing structures affiliated with the Russian embassy to make inroads among such people.

Meanwhile, independent Russian-language media in the United States, or the creation of such media, could help convey American values ​​to the diaspora and, potentially, refute Moscow's official propaganda. What's more, it could contribute to the effective assimilation of Russian-speaking immigrants and create an alternative culture that preserves the best in Russian cultural heritage and language — all while avoiding becoming another cog in Moscow's unceasing "information operations."

In the end, no matter how effective Russia's "soft power" tactics may be, the Kremlin can't create problems in Western countries out of thin air. Moscow, instead, simply takes advantage of the contradictions and conflicts that are already present in Western societies. That leaves the West having to prepare itself to repel foreign interference at the same time it works to solve the real problems that Russia is exploiting. If not, Western democracies might come to resemble Moscow, sharply reducing the prospect for self-criticism as the powers that be dismiss internal problems as mere "intrigues of an external enemy."

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Russia's Black Sea Fleet ventures into the Mediterranean
« Reply #289 on: January 22, 2020, 09:26:45 AM »
third post

January 22, 2020   Open as PDF



    Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Ventures Into the Mediterranean
By: Jacek Bartosiak

In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, which compelled the U.S. Navy and other NATO countries to demonstrate their overwhelming land-attack capabilities in the Black Sea. Their combined resources and capabilities frightened Russian decision-makers to the point that military officials informed President Vladimir Putin that the Black Sea Fleet would not be able to stop Western forces from destroying Sochi – southern Russia’s unofficial capital, where Putin (like Stalin before him) stays for up to six months each year – and striking any Russian targets throughout the Black Sea Basin.

The Russian leadership then set out to strengthen the Black Sea Fleet, including by restoring submarine-deployed cruise missiles and introducing a Bastion coastal defense missile system. But the modernization efforts failed to alter the overall balance of power in the Black Sea that had been in place since the collapse of the Soviet empire, in part because Russia did not yet have full control of Crimea and in part because the Black Sea Fleet’s operations have expanded widely over the past several years.

The Soviets’ Foray Into the Mediterranean

To change the balance of power in the Black Sea region, the Russians would need to be able to block the passage of NATO ships through the Bosporus. To achieve this goal, they need a forward sea presence at the southern European perimeter beyond the Bosporus in the Mediterranean. If this could be achieved, the Turkish Straits could be defended from Western navies, which could then be blocked from entering the Black Sea. The Bosporus would then become the first bolted position on the outskirts of the Mediterranean, turning the Black Sea Basin essentially into an additional buffer against the West and shielding Crimea, the Don and Volga areas – the soft underbelly of Russia – and of course the southern capital, Sochi.
 
(click to enlarge)

The Soviet Union tried to create such a buffer by establishing a Mediterranean squadron that would operate separately from the Black Sea Fleet. At its peak, the squadron numbered 30-50 ships. Its primary task was to block the freedom of action of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea as well as to support Arab client countries. Essentially, its goal was to keep the Turks below the 43rd parallel (in the southern Black Sea) and the Americans behind the 23rd meridian (west of the British Isles).

When the Soviet Union, which was never a real naval power, collapsed, the Black Sea squadron’s escapades into the Mediterranean also ended. The Black Sea, like the Baltic, was no longer dominated by the continental empire. That opened these waters to U.S. influence and began the process of Western expansion into Eastern Europe that brought with it the establishment of democratic systems.

A Grand Return

The Russians used the civil war in Syria as a convenient excuse to make a grand return to the Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean. The focus was on securing the port of Tartus and providing air cover for land operations and sea communication to the air base in Hmeimim, Syria. Generally speaking, the Russian fleet coped poorly with the task set for it in Moscow. This is evidenced by the fact that within the Russian armed forces, which are undergoing major organizational shifts, the navy does not wield sufficient influence among the top brass.

In Syria, the Russian navy has produced mixed results. Frigates, corvettes and submarines have been deployed and have launched Kalibr missiles at a number of enemy targets. Perhaps the navy’s most impressive strike early in the campaign came on Oct. 7, 2015, Putin’s birthday, when four flotilla corvettes in the Caspian fired 26 Kalibr NK 3M14 missiles with a range of 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) over Iranian and Iraqi airspace at targets in Syria. A total of about 25 volleys and 140 missiles were fired, some by Black Sea Fleet frigates located in the Mediterranean approximately 160 kilometers from the Syrian coast. On average, one salvo consisted of 4-8 missiles.

Kilo-class submarines also fired cruise missiles – a total of about 40 pieces at an average distance of 400-900 kilometers deep into Syria. Though Kalibr missiles have proved to be a good weapon system, the Russians do not have enough of them in stock, a problem the French have also had to deal with in their operations in Libya and Syria. It’s noteworthy, however, that the Syrian factions on which the Kalibr missiles were tested do not have anti-aircraft defense or modern radars, so the weapon has not been properly tested against a professional, sophisticated opponent. They are also rather expensive, costing up to $6.5 million per piece. And although they are theoretically difficult to detect, their overall effectiveness, beyond demonstrating to the U.S. and other Western countries Russia’s capability to strike from a distance, is difficult to gauge.

The Fleet’s Shortcomings

The other traditional capabilities of the Russian fleet fared much worse. In 2016, the Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, accompanied by the Pyotr Velikiy nuclear cruiser, two rocket frigates and logistics ships, was sent to the Mediterranean Sea. The squadron left from Severomorsk and while sailing along Europe’s northern rim, the Kuznetsov cruised at less than 10 nautical miles per hour and released plumes of smoke that indicated serious engine failure and poor propulsion. The ship has been waiting for repairs since returning to its home port in February 2017.

The Kuznetsov is able to carry up to 50 planes and helicopters, but when it passed Gibraltar, it had only 10 Su-33, four new MiG-29K and a few helicopters. The reason was the lack of pilots trained to fly aircraft stationed on a carrier and the lack of operational equipment.

Since the Kuznetsov has no catapult, the planes take off from the ramp with the help of afterburners, but in this case the low speed of the ship (it needs to sail at a minimum of 20 nautical miles per hour) prevented combat launch. In total, on-board aircraft made only 420 combat flights over Syria, of which as many as two-thirds were from land bases in Syria. In addition, two planes crashed from the sea due to a chassis failure and poor pilot training. Meanwhile, the Pyotr Velikiy battlecruiser participated in very few operations because it did not have the capacity to strike at land from the sea; with ongoing renovations, this is expected to change.

Russian maritime logistics performed better than the fighting fleet. Russian vessels sailed constantly from Russian ports across the Bosporus to Syria, mainly along the Novorossiysk-Bosporus-Tartus route, transporting up to 100,000 metric tons of cargo per month. This was done thanks to the mobilization of a landing fleet that included ships made in the PRL – the Toad 775 project, which can carry a Russian marine battalion and 12 tanks with supplies. In addition, civilian ships carrying civilian crews were purchased in Turkey, Greece and even Ukraine and painted in the Black Sea Fleet colors so that they would not be stopped by the Turks on the Bosporus.

Russia’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria and Libya could be a step toward achieving Moscow’s goal of shielding the Black Sea from Western influence. But a number of other pivotal changes would need to be made before it can really alter the balance of power in its favor, especially as other powers grow increasingly interested in establishing a foothold in the region.

To learn more, please visit strategyandfuture.org.
 




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US opts out of Open Skies Treaty
« Reply #290 on: May 21, 2020, 08:10:19 PM »


https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/end-open-skies-treaty-further-weakens-us-russian-arms-control?id=743c2bc617&e=b6fb3e5216&uuid=9c94b7cb-5435-4ec8-b7e8-d35a71d0cf95&utm_source=Topics%2C+Themes+and+Regions&utm_campaign=d66d79f4dc-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_05_21_07_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_743c2bc617-d66d79f4dc-53682369&mc_cid=d66d79f4dc

The End of the Open Skies Treaty Further Weakens U.S.-Russian Arms Control
3 MINS READ
May 21, 2020 | 19:06 GMT
HIGHLIGHTS
The U.S. government on May 21 informed its allies of intention to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies. The continued abandonment of arms control treaties is both an indicator and a driver of reduced trust and cooperation between the United States and Russia. ...

The U.S. government on May 21 informed its allies of intention to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies. The administration of President Donald Trump has long contemplated this move, citing Russian infractions and abuse of the treaty. The announcement came as separate leaks suggested that the Trump administration is considering a limited extension of New START, the treaty that governs the number of nuclear weapons Russia and the United States maintain. These actions add to the broader dismantling of the global arms control framework.

The Treaty on Open Skies provides the United States and Russia, as well as its European signatories, with the ability to conduct observation flights over each other's territory as a means to achieve stability and trust by allowing mutual visibility of military facilities and deployments. Russia's refusal to allow these flights over certain Russian territories, as well as its increasing focus on the observation of civilian infrastructure during overflights of the United States, fueled opposition to the treaty.
New START governs the number of nuclear weapons that both Russia and the United States field, but is set to expire in February 2021. While the treaty allows for a five-year extension upon both parties' agreement, the Trump administration has been reluctant to agree to this without expanding the scope of the treaty to include China.
The continued abandonment of arms control treaties is both an indicator and a driver of reduced trust and cooperation between the United States and Russia. Similar negative trends occurred during the Cold War, and were eventually followed by a revival of arms control efforts within that same bilateral context. One core problem that has plagued the viability of bilateral arms control treaties is the nonparticipation of China. Despite China's much smaller nuclear arsenal, its rise as a military power and technological advances in both strategic and conventional weapons have seen the reality of arms control evolve beyond the former Cold War bipolarity. In this more complex environment, sustaining legacy arms control measures becomes difficult, and establishing new ones is even further out of reach.

The Trump administration didn't initiate this trend; it only happens to be occupying the White House as long-term questions on the sustainability of particular arms control treaties are coming to a head.

Under the Trump presidency and amid the context of increasing multipolar competition, the arms control framework that established limitations and guarantees between the United States and Russia during and following the Cold War has become progressively weakened. Last year, Trump withdrew from the INF Treaty, banning intermediate-range missiles from U.S. and Russian arsenals. The Trump administration didn't initiate this trend — former presidents George W. Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 and Barack Obama considered abandoning the INF Treaty — it only happens to be occupying the White House as long-term questions on the sustainability of particular arms control treaties are coming to a head.


Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Open Skies Treaty
« Reply #291 on: May 21, 2020, 09:43:59 PM »
second

A bright spot in President Trump’s foreign policy has been his recognition that treaties are only valuable when every party adheres to them. His decision this week to abandon the 1992 Open Skies accord will cost the U.S. little, but it sends the right message to American adversaries.

The Trump Administration began informing allies Thursday that the U.S. would withdraw from the treaty in six months. The agreement, which also includes dozens of European nations, lets countries conduct intelligence-gathering flights over each other’s territory. In theory Open Skies is one of the more useful arms-control deals because it contributes to transparency and confidence about an adversary’s military.

But Russia used the flights to catalog critical American facilities and even fly over Mr. Trump’s New Jersey estate. It regularly blocked U.S. flights considered legitimate under the treaty. Moscow restricted surveillance missions over Kaliningrad, where Russian forces are massed miles from the Polish border. It also stopped flights in Georgia and over a Russian military exercise.

One problem with arms control is that its supporters have never seen a violation large or frequent enough to justify pulling the plug. “Another shortsighted Trump move to abandon a treaty that includes many close allies,” former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power tweeted. “This decision further chips away at decades of arms control progress.”

Vladimir Putin knows that Obama officials like Ms. Power support treaties for the sake of supporting treaties, whatever their real usefulness. Open Skies is a product of the post-Cold War era of good international feeling. But these days Russia, China and Iran are seeking regional dominance and often unite to work against the interests of the U.S. and its allies. There’s no reason to grant them the advantage of abiding by arms agreements they violate.

Advances in surveillance technology mean the U.S. doesn’t need the flights to see inside Russia, while the flights do help the Russians. Withdrawing will also save about $250 million. The most serious risk is that pulling out will annoy some of America’s NATO allies that plan to remain in the agreement. But Open Skies is far from the most serious issue in the trans-Atlantic relationship.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that Washington may “reconsider our withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty.” And Mr. Trump has said he’d like to renegotiate the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and expand it to include China. That sounds like a mistake given how neither China nor Russia abide by other promises (see nearby).

But leaving the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year and Open Skies by the end of 2020 at least sends an important message about what this Administration expects when negotiating arms-control deals.

Crafty_Dog

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The Solar Winds hack
« Reply #292 on: December 24, 2020, 07:32:06 PM »


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Putting the SolarWinds Hack in Geopolitical Context
Rodger Baker
Rodger Baker
Senior VP of Strategic Analysis, Stratfor
6 MINS READ
Dec 22, 2020 | 21:22 GMT
The Austin, Texas, headquarters of SolarWinds.
The Austin, Texas, headquarters of SolarWinds.
(Travel_with_me/SHUTTERSTOCK)
HIGHLIGHTS
The latest cyberattack against U.S. government computer systems reflects Russia's strategic position on the world stage, its perceived vulnerabilities and its continued use of gray area operations to maintain a strategic edge against the United States. Russia is unlikely to back down from continued operations in the future, even in the face of U.S. sanctions or counteroperations....

The latest cyberattack against U.S. government computer systems reflects Russia's strategic position on the world stage, its perceived vulnerabilities and its continued use of gray area operations to maintain a strategic edge against the United States.

The SolarWinds attack appears to have provided Russian operatives with lengthy access to internal U.S. government computer systems and email accounts, a veritable goldmine of intelligence collection. Initial assessments suggest the suspected Russian operatives limited the systems they accessed, reducing the chance of detection and thus lengthening their access. As such, this currently appears to be primarily an intelligence collection operation, not an offensive operation designed to damage or destroy U.S. systems.

Russia's continued use of cyberspace for intelligence collection and detection of vulnerabilities for potential offensive operations demonstrate a key component of Russian international strategy. Moscow sees itself still locked in competition with the United States and its European allies, and engages in gray-area operations and hybrid warfare, using proxies and nonmilitary means in order to maintain a tactical edge and broaden its options should relations deteriorate further. Gray area operations, from cyberespionage to the use of "little green men" along the Russian periphery, are lower cost and lower risk operations for Russia. Their use reflects Moscow's seizing of an opportunity and its perceptions of its own weakness.

Russia's government, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in particular, has assessed Russia's opening to the West at the end of the Cold War as having been an economic and political disaster at home, and as clear proof that the United States and Europe have little intention of ever considering Russia an equal within the Western liberal order. For Russia, reasserting its influence along the former Soviet periphery and protecting its domestic political system represents an imperative. Russia sees the West constantly seeking to further eat away at its periphery, from promises of, or actual, NATO and EU expansion to economic and political sanctions.

This perception is made more immediate by Russia's future vulnerabilities. Like most of the developed nations of the global north, Russia faces a future of continued demographic decline, with an aging and shrinking population pool from which to draw labor, innovation and defense personnel. Russia has also found it difficult to transition away from a commodity-based economy, one heavily dependent on oil and gas, and sees the potential for peak oil in the early 2030s as a massive economic obstacle. In short, Russia faces an economic and budget crisis and a population crisis sometime in the next 20 years. It fears those vulnerabilities will leave it exposed to faster Western encroachment and to an unequal relationship with China.

Over the past 20 years, Moscow has sought to address these future crises. It has steadily pushed back along its periphery, from Georgia to Moldova, from Ukraine to Armenia. Moscow inserted itself in the Middle East crisis, and is expanding its maritime operations along the Red Sea. And it sought new investments into alternative industries. But its strategic push along the Soviet frontiers, particularly the annexation of Crimea and the downing of MH17, imposed additional sanctions that left Moscow doubling down on resource extraction in the Arctic and its Far East.

The government has also sought to reinstall a strong sense of Russian nationalism, and strengthened ties with the orthodox Church to reinforce a sense of Russian identity and try to spur its birth rate. At the same time, Russia has stepped up its defense ties with China, securing its rear, dividing U.S. attention and drawing on Chinese financial resources.

But these efforts only serve to build a protective shell for the future Russia. They do not eliminate the threats from the West (or the East). The cyber domain provides Russia with several important strategic levers to mitigate its vulnerabilities. It is a source of intelligence collection, against governments and industries. It is a tool for information operations and disruption. And it can be a vector for attacks against U.S. communications and infrastructure. Moscow is regularly engaged in the first two, and in exposing vulnerabilities toward the latter. These provide Russia with asymmetric response capabilities to U.S. economic and political tools, both now and in any future confrontation.

Over the last several decades, Moscow has seen the limits of U.S. and Western responses to cyberattacks, to territorial violations and even to extraterritorial assassinations.

And the United States remains particularly vulnerable in the cyber domain. The long-standing preference for freedom of information, personal privacy and free market activity leaves the U.S. system fragmented, with limits on government involvement and control. This is not a critique, but a recognition of the choice, one in contrast to the cyberspace policies of China and Russia — or even the shifting policies of the European Union, which bend even more strongly toward individual protections over corporate. Despite the increase in U.S. attention to the cyber domain, this patchwork quilt structure is likely to remain, reinforcing U.S. values at the risk of vulnerabilities.

Russia, then, is unlikely to back down from continued operations in the future, even in the face of U.S. sanctions or counteroperations. Over the last several decades, Moscow has seen the limits of U.S. and Western responses to cyberattacks, to territorial violations and even to extraterritorial assassinations. The United States and European nations have largely responded to Russian actions with limited steps, from targeted sanctions to public critiques. This is similar to U.S. responses to Chinese activities over the past several decades. The strategic consideration has been that no single action justifies such a strong response that it either cripples the adversary (Russia or China) or triggers an escalation that could lead to physical conflict. And the semiambiguity possible in cyberspace adds another layer of assurance that the responses will be kept within a set of Western norms that Moscow can generally manage.

The risk for Russia is that, as with the shifting U.S. perception of China, Russia's actions may reach a point where the status quo response is no longer politically feasible inside the United States. Washington has refrained from its potentially most devastating economic tools, and limited the expansion of its military partnerships along the Russian frontier. While this is likely to remain the reality for some time, were Russian actions to move from intelligence collection, information operations and disruptive activities to cyberattacks with strong physical impacts inside the United States, the U.S. calculus would change dramatically.

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Biden will not seek to revive Open Skies Treaty
« Reply #293 on: May 31, 2021, 04:32:15 PM »
Much could go wrong when President Biden sits down with Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16. But at least one bad policy has been ruled out: The U.S. won’t try to revive the Open Skies Treaty.

“In concluding its review of the treaty, the United States therefore does not intend to seek to rejoin it, given Russia’s failure to take any actions to return to compliance,” a State Department statement said last week. “Further, Russia’s behavior, including its recent actions with respect to Ukraine, is not that of a partner committed to confidence-building.”

The 1992 accord—which allowed the U.S., Russia and European states to conduct surveillance flights over each other—is a relic of the optimism that accompanied the downfall of the Soviet Union. The treaty was theoretically useful in creating military transparency. But these kinds of agreements only work when the parties operate in good faith.


Despite some post-Cold War hope, Russia never transformed into a responsible international player. It blocked legitimate Western flights over its territory while using the treaty to gain intelligence about American sites. Even if Mr. Putin fully complied, the treaty still tilted in his favor: American surveillance technology outpaces Russian abilities, making the flights more useful to Moscow than Washington.

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When Donald Trump announced he would leave the treaty in May 2020, Mr. Biden called the decision a “short-sighted policy of going it alone and abandoning American leadership.” He warned this would “increase the risks of miscalculation and conflict” while alienating Europeans who wanted the U.S. to stay.

“Russian violations should be addressed not by withdrawing from the Treaty,” Mr. Biden said, “but by seeking to resolve them through the Treaty’s implementation and dispute mechanism.” Apparently the Biden Administration now has seen the light on the pointlessness of bureaucratic wrangling with Russia.

“The United States made another political mistake, struck a new blow to the European security system,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. “We gave them a good chance, which they did not take advantage of.” He promised “uncomfortable” signals would soon be coming from Moscow. If anyone in the White House is doubting the President’s withdrawal, the Kremlin’s response should confirm Mr. Biden’s decision.

All of which raises a question: If Mr. Biden doesn’t have confidence on a relatively minor issue like Open Skies, what does he expect to accomplish in Geneva?

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WSJ: Putin crosses Magoo's red line
« Reply #294 on: July 08, 2021, 07:14:48 PM »
Putin Tests Biden’s Cyber Vow
When a U.S. President draws a clear red line, he has to enforce it.
By The Editorial Board
July 7, 2021 12:51 pm ET
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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via teleconference at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 7.
PHOTO: ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Barack Obama’s misadventures in Syria showed that a President shouldn’t draw red lines he isn’t willing to enforce. President Biden hasn’t been afraid to talk tough and set expectations with Vladimir Putin, but will Mr. Biden enforce his own red lines?

Media reports suggest that the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, was behind a recent cyber attack on a Republican National Committee contractor. The same outfit hit the Democratic National Committee six years ago and was behind the more recent SolarWinds attack on U.S. government agencies and corporations. The RNC attack took place last week, around the same time as a Russian-linked gang struck hundreds of American businesses with ransomware.

Mr. Putin has spent his time in power invading neighbors, meddling in Western elections, cheating on arms-control agreements—and allowing cyber attacks against the U.S. This despite the best efforts to improve relations from George W. Bush, Mr. Obama and Donald Trump. Mr. Biden’s team argued that last month’s summit wouldn’t solve a problem like Mr. Putin but could limit the damage. The new cyberattacks suggest this was wrong.


Mr. Biden has said he gave Mr. Putin a list of 16 critical infrastructure areas that should be “off-limits” from cyber attacks. He warned after the meeting that “if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber.” The President suggested over the weekend that the U.S. would respond if it found the Kremlin at fault over the recent attacks.


Mr. Putin is not omniscient and his grip on Russia isn’t as firm as it sometimes seems. But he was—or should have been—aware of an attack on a major political target in the U.S. If Russian hackers are independent of the government, Moscow should be willing to cooperate with Washington and bring them to justice. Note that these cyber-criminals in Russia never seem to attack targets in Russia.

If the U.S. doesn’t respond, it will be open season on America’s digital infrastructure. Proportionate retaliation runs the risk of escalation. But after publicly drawing a red line, Mr. Biden has no choice lest he show Mr. Putin and other thugs around the world that the U.S. President’s words are empty.