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Considering a Succession Plan in Russia - 0 views

  • Putin has worked since 2000 to consolidate Russia's government and political system under his leadership. Decisions regarding policy and strategy have for the most part been made by Putin himself, even as the country's networks of power circles and politicians have manifested themselves in various ways.
  • Over the past 13 years, Putin has shifted between the opposing camps as he has seen fit to strengthen and stabilize the country.
  • at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, the consolidation of Russia faced social and political challenges with United Russia losing credibility in contentious elections, the rise of anti-Kremlin protestors and the fracturing of Kremlin clans into a string of conflicting groups.
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  • The Kremlin was forced to start an accelerated political restructuring in 2012 -- one entailing a countrywide effort to devise programs to plan for Russia's future.
  • The Kremlin launched a major domestic anti-corruption campaign that began targeting the government in an attempt to curb behavior that has had a long-term decaying effect on the country.
  • Russians believe good health to be an important aspect of one's ability to lead, and Putin's back trouble caused many in the Kremlin to panic. The Russian media and the Russian people had never seen Putin falter due to ill health. This was in stark contrast to his predecessor, former President Boris Yeltsin, who was plagued with health issues that negatively impacted his ability to run the country.
  • Though Russia has a formal electoral process to choose its leaders, in reality Putin makes the choices regarding leadership.
  • due to the intricate workings of the internal power circles -- and especially because Medvedev is a reformist, not a security hawk -- Medvedev was quickly deemed irrelevant, and Putin remained in power as premier.
  • Putin is not just a president; he is the ultimate arbitrator of Russia's factions and sectors. Before Putin could find a successor capable of assuming that role, he had to break down the existing power structure and create a new system through which a successor could rise.
  • Since the end of 2012, a new system – coined the Politburo 2.0 by widely followed Kremlin analyst Yevgeni Minchenko – has broken down much of the previous clan system and created an inner Kremlin circle of nine men, with Putin as its overall leader. This is not a formal system, like the Cabinet of Ministers, which implements Putin’s vision. It is rather a way to balance the most powerful decision-makers in the country, each with connections and power bases in politics, energy, finance and the military. Outside of the Politburo 2.0 are political circles from which Politburo members may draw support.
  • With a newer, though untested, system in place, the concept of succession is now being considered, and a vice presidency is seen as one possible solution.
  • The concept of a vice presidency that would lead into a successor role is fraught with peril for Putin's new Politburo 2.0. There has never been a formalized second-in-command position under Putin for which various power groups could vie.
  • Creating such a position will most likely lead to vicious competition between the power circles, as well as attempts to discredit the person who becomes vice president.
  • There is also a danger to Putin himself: Previous attempts to install a vice president have led to moves to overthrow the president.
  • The first attempt took place in 1990, during the last years of the Soviet Union, when Gennady Yanayev held the office under former President Mikhail Gorbachev. Yanayev turned on Gorbachev in 1991, taking part in the coup that at first made Yanayev acting president of the Soviet Union. This was before he was arrested and replaced by Yeltsin. Under Yeltsin, Alexander Rustokoi held the role of vice president from 1991-1993. He eventually attempted to overthrow Yeltsin in 1993 during two weeks of mass violence across Moscow ending with Rustokoi’s arrest.
  • With so many dangers related to creating a vice presidency, and with the new Politburo 2.0 still untested, it may be too early for the implementation of a new succession system in the Kremlin.
    "Advisers to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday submitted proposals concerning a possible restoration of the office of vice president, a move that could create part of a succession plan for a post-Putin Russia."

Заброшенные здания, недостроенные здания, военные объекты, брошенная техника,... - 1 views

    Incredible pictures of a Russian rocket facility.

U.S., Russia Make New Deals on Supply Routes to Afghanistan - 0 views

    "U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman visited Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan at the end of July, right before traveling to Pakistan to meet the Pakistani president and participate in a trilateral summit on the Afghan war."

U.S., Russia Make New Deals on Supply Routes to Afghanistan - 0 views

  • The ability to move more cargo along these routes will strengthen the United States’ position relative to Pakistan in their upcoming summit.
  • During the past year, Russia has been cooperating more with the United States on security issues in Afghanistan, particularly by expanding the use of supply routes to Afghanistan that go through Central Asia.
  • In 2009, as much as 90 percent of NATO supplies shipped via surface routes to Afghanistan were transported along supply lines through Pakistani territory.
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  • the United States has dramatically increased the volume of supplies moving into Afghanistan via road and rail routes through Central Asia known as the Northern Distribution Network (NDN)
  • As of July, more than 40 percent of surface cargo bound for Afghanistan was transported along these routes. U.S. military officials have said they hope to increase this share to as much as 75 percent by the end of the year.
  • U.S.-Russian cooperation has increased, particularly in the last quarter, on security issues in Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian states.
  • before Washington can expand its use of the NDN, the United States and Russia must address several outstanding issues.
  • First, the only cargo currently allowed to move along the NDN is “non-lethal” cargo: food, water, construction materials and the like. Weapons and ammunition are not permitted.
  • What Russia really wants is an agreement on ballistic missile defense in Europe
  • An additional problem is that current Central Asian supply routes to Afghanistan only go one way; the shipment of any supplies out of Afghanistan via the NDN is prohibited.
  • The third issue is that some of the transportation infrastructure along the Central Asian networks is in disrepair and would need upgrades to handle any significant increase in volume.
  • Finally, there is the issue that NATO supply lines have served as major targets for militants.
  • it is likely that Washington and Moscow have already reached an agreement on most of these issues
    "U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman visited Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan at the end of July, right before traveling to Pakistan to meet the Pakistani president and participate in a trilateral summit on the Afghan war."

Agenda: With George Friedman on Russia - 0 views

  • Let’s begin by trying to explain what it was that Putin in particular created. What he recognized was the problem of the Soviet empire, the problem with the czarist empire, was that they totally controlled surrounding territories. As such, they benefited from them, but they were responsible for them as well, and so that wealth was transferred into them to maintain them, to sustain the regimes, and so on and so forth. Putin came up with a new structure in which he had limited desires from countries like Ukraine. These were irreducible, that is to say, they could not be part of NATO, could not have hostile forces there, they had to cooperate on a bunch of issues. But Russia was not responsible for their future, and it was really a brilliant maneuver because it gave them the benefit of the Russian empire, of the Soviet Union, without the responsibilities, without the drain on the Russian treasury.
  • And what he has created in Ukraine, in Kazakhstan, in Belarus, is sovereignty for these nations and yet alignment with Russia. And this has made Russia a very powerful player because its house is in order at the same time that, for example, as the European house is in massive disorder.
  • So, STRATFOR was perhaps a little unkind in its forecast for 2011 when it said that Russia would play a double game, ensuring it can reap benefits from having warm relations with countries, such as investment and economic ties, while keeping the pressure up on them. It’s been a clever game, hasn’t it?
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  • Well, a double game is a clever game, particularly when no one realizes you’re playing a double game. I have to say that I don’t regard duplicity among nations as a critique of nations, it’s the lifeblood of international affairs.
  • They’ve become much more accommodating because they’ve achieved, within the former Soviet Union, the goals they wanted to achieve by and large.
  • Now they’re operating from a position of strength and therefore they don’t have to assert their strength.
  • Now they’re being courted by the Americans, they’re being courted by the Germans and this is the position that Putin wanted to get them into, and he did.
  • This Russian empire, the Soviet Union, were not accidents of history. They didn’t just happen. They were structures that grew naturally from the underlying economic and political relationships.
  • Russia is far too vast to simply be the whim of a given personality. In my view even Stalin represented the vast czarist and Leninist tradition, to an extreme perhaps, but still the idea of the personalization of rule.
  • The media tends to think of better and worse relations — I don’t think of that. Russia has its interests; the United States has its interests. There are times when these interests coincide; there are times when these interests diverge. There are times when one country or the other is too preoccupied with other things to be worried about the other.
    "A re-emerging Russia is restoring its global influence without taking on the burden of an empire. In the second of his series on global pressure points, STRATFOR CEO Dr. George Friedman applauds Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's achievements and examines the Russian-U.S. relationship."

American vs. Russian notions of friendship - 0 views

  • Not long ago I attended an evening-long discussion group on this topic, comprised mostly of Russian emigrants and their spouses.  The Russians were generally keen to argue that they have deeper and closer friendships than do the Americans.  They also dislike that Americans will call their acquaintances “friends.”  In response I noted that:
  • 1. Relative to Americans, Russians are far more concerned with defining who is truly a friend, or not.
  • 2. Russians are far more likely to conduct purges of their friends.
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  • 3. American geographic mobility has been falling for some time and so we might move back toward some closer and more durable notions of friendship
  • are Russian lower-middle class friendships so much more “life and death” than American lower-middle class friendships, especially among the immobile?
    Thanks to Dave Gottlieb for this pointer to Tyler Cowen's observations about the notion of friendship, comparing American to Russian

Russia's Evolving Leadership - 4 views

  • In the past decade, one person has consolidated and run Russia’s political system: former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
  • Under Putin’s presidential predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s strategic economic assets were pillaged, the core strength of the country — the KGB, now known as the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the military — fell into decay, and the political system was in disarray. Though Russia was considered a democracy and a new friend to the West, this was only because Russia had no other option — it was a broken country.
  • While an autocrat and KGB agent (we use the present tense, as Putin has said that no one is a former KGB or FSB agent), he hails from St. Petersburg, Russia’s most pro-Western city, and during his Soviet-era KGB service he was tasked with stealing Western technology. Putin fully understands the strength of the West and what Western expertise is needed to keep Russia relatively modern and strong. At the same time, his time with the KGB convinced him that Russia can never truly be integrated into the West and that it can be strong only with a consolidated government, economy and security service and a single, autocratic leader.
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  • Putin’s understanding of Russia’s two great weaknesses informs this worldview.
  • The first weakness is that Russia was dealt a poor geographic hand.
  • The second is that its population is comprised of numerous ethnic groups, not all of which are happy with centralized Kremlin rule.
  • Russia essentially lacks an economic base aside from energy.
  • These geographic, demographic and economic challenges have led Russia to shift between being aggressive to keep the country secure and being accommodating toward foreign powers in a bid to modernize Russia.
  • However, Russia cannot go down the two paths of accommodating and connecting with the West and a consolidated authoritarian Russia at the same time unless Russia is first strong and secure as a country, something that has only happened recently.
  • Which face they show does not depend upon personalities but rather upon the status of Russia’s strength.
  • Putin, who had no choice but to appeal to the West to help keep the country afloat when he took office in 2000, initially was hailed as a trusted partner by the West. But even while former U.S. President George W. Bush was praising Putin’s soul, behind the scenes, Putin already was reorganizing one of his greatest tools — the FSB — in order to start implementing a full state consolidation in the coming years.
  • After 9/11, Putin was the first foreign leader to phone Bush and offer any assistance from Russia. The date marked an opportunity for both Putin and Russia. The attacks on the United States shifted Washington’s focus, tying it down in the Islamic world for the next decade. This gave Russia a window of opportunity with which to accelerate its crackdown inside (and later outside) Russia without fear of a Western response.
  • During this time, the Kremlin ejected foreign firms, nationalized strategic economic assets, shut down nongovernmental organizations, purged anti-Kremlin journalists, banned many anti-Kremlin political parties and launched a second intense war in Chechnya.
  • Western perceptions of Putin’s friendship and standing as a democratic leader simultaneously evaporated.
  • When Medvedev entered office, his current reputation for compliance and pragmatism did not exist. Instead, he continued on Russia’s roll forward with one of the boldest moves to date — the Russia-Georgia war.
  • By 2009, Russia had proven its power in its direct sphere and so began to ease into a new foreign and domestic policy of duality.
  • Only when Russia is strong and consolidated can it drop being wholly aggressive and adopt such a stance of hostility and friendliness.
  • With elections approaching, the ruling tandem seems even more at odds as Medvedev overturns many policies Putin put into place in the early 2000s, such as the ban on certain political parties, the ability of foreign firms to work in strategic sectors and the role of the FSB elite within the economy. Despite the apparent conflict, the changes are part of an overall strategy shared by Putin and Medvedev to finish consolidating Russian power.
  • These policy changes show that Putin and Medvedev feel confident enough that they have attained their first imperative that they can look to confront the second inherent problem for the country: Russia’s lack of modern technology and lack of an economic base
  • Russia thus has launched a multiyear modernization and privatization plan to bring in tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars to leapfrog the country into current technology and diversify the economy. Moscow has also struck deals with select countries — Germany, France, Finland, Norway, South Korea and even the United States — for each sector to use the economic deals for political means.
  • two large problems
  • First, foreign governments and firms are hesitant to do business in an authoritarian country with a record of kicking foreign firms out.
  • At the same time, the Kremlin knows that it cannot lessen its hold inside of Russia without risking losing control over its first imperative of securing Russia.
  • The first move is to strengthen the ruling party — United Russia — while allowing more independent political parties.
  • While these new political parties appear to operate outside the Kremlin’s clutches, this is just for show. The most important new party is Russia’s Right Cause launched by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov.
  • Right Cause is intended to support foreign business and the modernization efforts.
  • The Popular Front is not exactly a political party but an umbrella organization meant to unite the country. Popular Front members include Russia’s labor unions, prominent social organizations, economic lobbying sectors, big business, individuals and political parties. In short, anything or anyone that wants to be seen as pro-Russian is a part of the Popular Front.
  • It creates a system in which power in the country does not lie in a political office — such as the presidency or premiership — but with the person overseeing the Popular Front: Putin.
  • The new system is designed to have a dual foreign policy, to attract non-Russian groups back into the country and to look more democratic overall while all the while being carefully managed behind the scenes.
  • In theory, the new system is meant to allow the Kremlin to maintain control of both its grand strategies of needing to reach out abroad to keep Russia modern and strong and trying to ensure that the country is also under firm control and secure for years to come.
    • anonymous
      I would imagine that it seems that way to most Americans, but then we're tech-focused. We have a very hard time understanding that the only time Russia has ever felt geographically secure is *when* they're aggressive. This means upgrading tech, infrastructure, and social-glue all at the same time.

      Add: There are all those quotes from past leaders about feeling as though they had to expand their borders or influence just to feel secure at home.

      We Americans may as well be from Mars: We have two giant oceans and we culturally dominate our few neighbors with trade. This is why I agree with StratFor (read as: resignedly fear) that a confrontation with Russia is in the offing two decades hence. If they dominate central Asia and hold levers in Europe, as they are quite obviously trying to do, they will be perceived as a threat, and the U.S. is all too willing to help those who are afraid of Russia.

      All this strikes me as a prelude that we'll gloss over in future readings of the 'past'. But then, it's another case where I'm *begging* to be wrong.
    "Russia has entered election season, with parliamentary elections in December and presidential elections in March 2012. Typically, this is not an issue of concern, as most Russian elections have been designed to usher a chosen candidate and political party into office since 2000. Interesting shifts are under way this election season, however. While on the surface they may resemble political squabbles and instability, they actually represent the next step in the Russian leadership's consolidation of the state."
    I get the security concern, but Putin has always seemed to overemphasize and overextend the issue into something bigger and more offensive. It seems to me that the infrastructure and tech needs are much more pressing and would yield more results.
    There are still plenty of places where we're not willing to push back (the Polish Belorussian genocides being a prominent example in my mind), but you're right at how foreign that mindset is. Foreign or bizarrely 19th century.

Portfolio: Russia Takes Advantage of the Eurozone Crisis - 0 views

  • The key issue right now is whether Greek parliament will be able to pass the June 28 austerity measures vote. If it fails, it could lead to further panic throughout Europe. This has unsettled the markets and generally panicked investors throughout the world.
  • Russia has considerable opportunities opening up before itself because of the eurozone crisis.
  • First of all, Europeans are distracted and generally not unified on a number of issues but because the economic crisis has engulfed the eurozone
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  • The two greatest geopolitical interests are the upcoming privatizations in Greece and also the news that Russia is interested in Austrian banks.
  • One of the interesting assets that Athens is looking to sell is DEPA, its natural gas company.
  • if DEPA falls to Russian hands, Gazprom has been quoted to be interested in its privatization, it would really complicate European efforts of using Greece as an alternative to Russian natural gas routes.
  • Another appealing opportunity for the Kremlin is the rumored interest of Sberbank and VTB, Russia’s two largest state-owned banks and Austria’s ­Raiffeisen Bank and Fokus Bank.
  • The reason that Russia’s interest in Austrian banks is something to look at is because Austrian banks control quite a number of banks in Central and Eastern Europe.
  • there are opportunities for investment that Russia can parlay into geopolitical advantage.
    "Analyst Marko Papic examines how Russia is able to gain geopolitical leverage over Europe because of the eurozone's ongoing crisis."

Russia's Chess Match In Libya - 0 views

  • Gadhafi has never displayed any intention of leaving Libya, a point he reportedly reiterated to Ilyumzhinov during his visit.
  • the best option he can hope for at this point is maintaining power of a rump Libya following a partition of the country (a course of action neither side has advocated publicly).
  • What is known is that no serious effort is being taken to arm and train rebel forces to do the job for the West. This means hopes for regime change ride on NATO planes or the possibility that members of Gadhafi’s own regime might overthrow him. Otherwise, negotiations will eventually have to take place, because no one is prepared to invade Libya or keep bombing it forever.
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  • Moscow knows this, and appears to be attempting to set itself up as the mediator in the Libyan conflict, not only between Tripoli and the rebel opposition, but more importantly between Tripoli and the West.
  • No other country is as well placed as Russia to fulfill this role, and Moscow is eager to take advantage of the opportunity. The Germans’ refusal to take part in the air campaign has exposed a major rift in the alliance that works in the Russian interest. Russia also has a strategic interest in positioning itself to be able to exploit Libya’s energy assets: By acting as a mediator to all sides, it can work toward its ultimate aim of scuttling European hopes that North Africa may present an opportunity to lessen the dependence on Russian energy supplies.
    • anonymous
      Dominating European energy needs has been a pretty strongly established objective for the Russians since Putin came to power.
  • Credibility is on the line, and that will be a powerful driver for these countries to succeed in their mission of regime change. It came as no surprise last Thursday to hear an anonymous NATO official concede that efforts are being made to assassinate Gadhafi in the course of selecting targets for bombing.
  • Ilyumzhinov may rival Gadhafi for personal eccentricity — Ilyumzhinov is famous for declaring that he was once taken aboard a UFO, and for claiming he can communicate through telepathy — but he is acting as a tool of Russian foreign policy in his dealings with Gadhafi.
  • A former president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, he has ties to the Kremlin as well as Russian intelligence. He claims his visit was not mandated by Moscow, yet admits that he informed President Dmitri Medvedev’s personal envoy for Africa, Mikhail Margelov, of his trip in advance.
    "Russian businessman and politician Kirsan Ilyumzhinov told Russian media Tuesday that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is ready to begin immediate talks with NATO and Benghazi-based rebels over the settlement to the Libyan civil war. Ilyumzhinov claims Gadhafi told him this during their recent meeting in Tripoli, when the pair were filmed playing chess by Libyan state television. Ilyumzhinov, the president of the governing body of the international chess world and who has ties to the Kremlin, claims that he offered Gadhafi a draw in the match, not wanting to offend his host. In the same vein, the Russian government is trying to facilitate a draw for Gadhafi in the Libyan conflict, as it asserts itself as a mediator, and more importantly, positions itself to exploit the Libyan crisis for its own geopolitical aims."

Dispatch: German-Russian Security Cooperation - 0 views

  • Russia and Germany are currently negotiating a potentially new institution within the European Union. It is the European Union and Russia Security and Political Committee. The actual organization — its name and its purpose — is quite vague. But what is clear is it would introduce Russia to the political and security decision-making of the European Union.
  • What’s interesting to watch is to what extent Germany is actually aligning itself with Russian interests on this specific issue. This is because Berlin doesn’t really care how the Transdniestria issue plays out in the region. What it does care about is to be able to prove to the rest of Europe that it can in fact control Russia, that it can in fact bring Russia to the table, and then once at the table Berlin can get Moscow to give some sort of conciliatory gestures towards the rest of Europe.
    "Analyst Marko Papic looks at the strategies Berlin may use to facilitate greater security collaboration between Germany and Russia without the input of the United States."

Portfolio: Obstacles to a China-Russia Energy Deal - 0 views

  • Russia’s the largest exporter of raw commodities in the world. China’s the largest importer of raw commodities in the world. It seems that it should already be a very robust trading relationship between the two, but there’s not. Until now, most of the public and even private debate between the two, the negotiations of a natural gas deal, have focused on price.
  • The Chinese want to pay no more than about $100, $150 per thousand cubic meters, which they say is the domestic price of natural gas in their country, and they’re right. The Russians say they will accept nothing less than the European price, which is $350-$400 per thousand cubic meters, which is what they say they charge all their other customers, which is also right.
  • It’s not that price isn’t an issue but the real problem is not the price of natural gas but the price of the project.
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  • Russia and China, while they seem to be right next to each other on a map, are very large places. Their population centers are wildly divergent, several thousand kilometers apart, and the natural gas in Russia for the most part is nowhere near the population centers in China.
  • This is a huge project. Conservatively, very conservatively, this is $100 billion infrastructure project. More realistically it’s more like $300 billion and that doesn’t even include the cost of building a natural gas grid in China in order to take advantage of the gas. Even now the Chinese do not have a unified system like most states.
  • And so the future of energy cooperation between the two countries will undoubtedly grow but $2-$300 billion infrastructure tag? That’s pretty doubtful. And timing is a big issue here too. The Russians have been working for the last 35 years to build one of these megaprojects starting in the Yamal Peninsula going down the Europe. That project is now finally nearing operational status but it took 35 years and tens of billions of dollars of investment. Even if the Chinese do agree with the Russians on every aspect of what would be the world’s largest infrastructure project ever, it’s not going to come online until 2030.
    "Vice President of Analysis Peter Zeihan discusses the logistical and geopolitical challenges to Sino-Russian energy integration."

The European Perception of Biden's Russian Visit - 0 views

  • During Biden’s previous European visits, he concentrated on Washington’s relationship with its Central European allies. Europe, particularly Western Europe, does not play a minor role in the complex relationship between Washington and Moscow.
  • Despite this general preoccupation, France and Germany have increased their engagement with Russia in several ways.
  • First, Paris and Berlin lobbied for Moscow to be included as a “strategic partner”
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  • Second, France has stood firm regarding plans to sell Mistral helicopter-carrier amphibious assault ships to Russia
  • Third, Germany has in the last few weeks boosted its military relationship with Russia
  • From the perspective of Germany and France, Russia is no longer the existential threat that it was during the Cold War. Russia is in fact a lucrative business partner.
  • Europe should continue to engage Moscow, and the United States and Central Europe should not stand in its way, since aggression will only turn Russia inward.
  • Germany and France are not engaging Russia for the sake of transforming Russia into some sort of a liberal democracy — that is merely the explanation given to the United States and Central Europe — but because it is in their national and economic interests to do so.
  • Russia knows how to play the game with Western Europe. Specifically, it knows how to show hints of internal “reform” to satisfy the “soft power” complex of Europe. But at the same time, it is using its enhanced military relationship with France and Germany as a way to counter American influence in countries like Poland and Romania.
    "U.S. Vice President Joe Biden began his official visit to Russia on Wednesday by meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, to be followed by a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday. Prior to his visit, Biden made a half-day stopover in Helsinki, where he met with Finnish President Tarja Halonen and had a working lunch with Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi. "

Dispatch: Implications of Biden's Visit to Moscow - 0 views

  • Russian-U.S. relations are pretty ambiguous after the so-called “reset” in 2009. All the hostilities and differences of years past still remain.
  • Vice President Biden is someone that Moscow watches very closely.
  • The main reasons for the so-called “reset” are:
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  • first, Russia was becoming more comfortable in its dominance over the former Soviet states that it could change tactics.
  • At the same time, the United States was becoming dangerously entrenched in the Islamic theater to the point where it pretty much couldn’t give any focus or bandwidth into its relationship and issues in Eurasia.
  • The number one issue between Russia and the United States is the division of their power and dominance in Eurasia.
  • What happens to all the differences that have been put aside that will naturally lead to a conflict between the United States and Russia once again? This is the question which Biden is discussing with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
    "Analyst Lauren Goodrich examines the current state of Russian-U.S. relations and how Vice President Biden is using his Moscow visit to begin the critical and difficult negotiations about their competing interests in Eurasia."

Airport Attack Highlights Russia's Deeply Embedded Issues - 0 views

  • Moscow faces a deeper-rooted problem than what must currently be done about Chechnya or Dagestan — and that problem is Russia’s inherent indefensibility and insecurity.
  • Russia, though vast in size, has few geographic barriers separating and protecting it from surrounding nations. Lacking well-placed oceans or mountains, Russia has throughout history had to essentially create these barriers in the form of buffer states by dominating various nations, whether it be Estonia or Tajikistan or somewhere in between.
  • The mountainous terrain has bred ethnic groups like Chechens, Ingush and Dagestanis that have a warrior-like and clan-based mentality and are especially opposed to taking orders from Moscow.
    "Moscow witnessed another act of terrorism on Monday as a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device and killed dozens of people at Domodedovo International, Russia's busiest airport. All signs point to the attacker hailing from one of the republics of the restless Northern Caucasus, likely either Chechnya or Dagestan, where Islamist militant-fueled violence and instability are regular occurrences. Monday's attack marks the second time in less than one year that such militants have struck beyond their unstable republics and into Russia's bustling capital, more than 1,000 miles away."

Russia and its Foreign Policy Dance - 0 views

  • Russia and Israel have had ongoing tense and complex relations. After a post-World War II alliance in the late 1940s, Soviet-era Moscow was a patron of Israel’s enemies — Egypt and Syria. At the time, this was not really about Russia siding against Israel as it was about pressuring the United States’ interests in the Middle East.
    The Kremlin announced Wednesday that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is going to visit the Palestinian territories in a few weeks, just as Medvedev's trip to Israel has been canceled. Medvedev had planned to go to Israel on Jan. 17-19, but his trip was postponed due to a strike at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. While this may just seem like a logistical and technical issue, there is a shifting Russian foreign policy strategy, giving Moscow freer capability to act against the Israelis and increase support for the Palestinians.

    At StratFor on January 6, 2011.

Russian Influence and the Changing Baltic Winds - 0 views

  • While it seems that the initial statement favoring Russia is relatively mild and reasonable, it is a subtle yet indicative representation of the changing winds in the Baltics.
  • In the past few months Russia has adopted a new, more multi-dimensional approach toward the Baltic states.
  • It isn’t that the Latvian government is becoming pro-Russian, but rather that it has realized that it is easier to cooperate with Russia than fight against it.
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  • Russia is just attempting to make sure that Western influence is easily containable and controllable in the three states that are on Russia’s most vulnerable geographic border.
    "When asked whether he preferred building a rail project westward to Europe or eastward to Russia, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis on Wednesday said the latter option - a railroad to Moscow - would be more justifiable to Latvia. Dombrovskis was careful to add that the decision would be made based on which option was more economically viable, but he said neither project - the high-speed rail to Europe known as "Rail Baltica" or a high-speed rail from Riga to Russia - would hold priority until a thorough economic analysis is conducted. While it seems that the initial statement favoring Russia is relatively mild and reasonable, it is a subtle yet indicative representation of the changing winds in the Baltics."

Who Fears the Russian Bear? - 0 views

  • Rogozin was being sardonic for dramatic effect — Moscow is not actually surprised that NATO has an active war plan against it. Russia completed joint exercises — called “Zapad” (meaning west in Russian) — with Belarus at the end of 2009 that placed 13,000 troops on the borders of the Baltic states and had as its supposed aim the simulation of the liberation of Kaliningrad from NATO forces.
  • And ultimately, Western European — and specifically German — lobbying for inclusion of Russia as a “strategic partner” should be the writing on the wall for the region: Its fate was to either adopt a neutral posture and accept Russian security hegemony or keep being pressured by Moscow.
  • Poland feels spurned, especially by Washington’s decision first to pull out on the initial ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in September 2009 and then, on a rotational basis, to deploy an unarmed Patriot missile battery to the country with a minimal contingent of 20-30 personnel, when Warsaw hoped for an armed deployment with a more robust — and more importantly, permanent — U.S. military presence.
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  • If we understand Tusk correctly, he essentially hints that the current public Polish-American relationship is an “illusion” and that, in reality, the U.S. security guarantees are insufficient.
  • To Americans, Poland looks like a country with no options. Sure, it feels spurned, but where will the Poles turn? As it did prior to WWII, Germany is making deals with Russia, and French and British security guarantees are unreliable. The United States, remembering its history of fighting wars to defend small allies for the sake of its credibility, would say that the Poles should know better than to doubt American guarantees.
  • Poland is not going to cease being an American ally — not considering its current geopolitical circumstances. But Polish officials also do not have the luxury of dismissing American horse-trading with the Russians over Polish security.
    "The global focus on Tuesday returned to the North European Plain, specifically east of the Oder and north of the Pripyat Marshes, where Russia, Poland, Belarus and the three Baltic states continue to share what is the geopolitical version of an awkward Soviet-era communal apartment. Russian envoy to NATO Dmitri Rogozin, referring to the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables revealing NATO plans to defend the three Baltic states from Russia, asked that the plans be formally withdrawn at the next NATO-Russia meeting. Rogozin pointed out that the recently penned NATO 2010 Strategic Concept speaks of a "true strategic partnership" - a direct quote from the mission statement - between the alliance and Russia and that the supposed "anti-Russian" military plan to defend the Baltics is incompatible with the document. Referring to the plan, Rogozin rhetorically asked, "Against who else could such a defense be intended? Against Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, against polar bears, or against the Russian bear?""

The Russian Swagger is Back - 0 views

  • A timeline helps to understand the statements surrounding the case, and broader U.S.-Russian relations.
  • The 10 intelligence officers, working secretly in the United States, were arrested almost simultaneously on June 28 in a major FBI operation. A quick spy swap was orchestrated by July 9; the spies were returned to Moscow.
  • a handful of these agents had been tracked for years in ongoing counterintelligence investigations, so something important triggered the sudden arrests.
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  • we suspect the leak occurred for one of three reasons:
  • Officials within or overseen by the U.S. Department of Defense wanted to counteract Putin’s claims of the spies’ relative innocence; second, U.S. counterintelligence investigators could be using the leak to “shake the trees” and watch for unusual communications traffic or activities by possible suspects; and this could be another move as Washington combats Russia’s push to spread its side of the story, that it is back on the world stage as a counterbalance to the United States.
  • Putin’s entire interview on Larry King was meant to remind the U.S. public that Russia still has many capabilities to challenge the United States. He spoke of the vast nuclear arsenal, regional alliances and — of course — spies. This was directed at a U.S. audience.
  • Putin identified the reality that every country “operates a foreign intelligence network.” U.S.-Russian intelligence and counterintelligence activities have changed little in decades, and no doubt is back in public view.
    "As the world mulls Thursday's naming of Russia as the 2018 World Cup host, as well as the Wednesday CNN interview with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin and the U.S. response, we should not overlook two new claims about the case of 10 Russian spies arrested in the United States in June. Answering a question from American high-profile interviewer Larry King, Putin said the "deep-cover agents" did not damage U.S. interests and would only have been activated in a crisis. Before the interview aired, The Washington Times journalist Bill Gertz published a report sourced to a retired intelligence official that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was undergoing a counterintelligence investigation linked to Russians who were charged with acting as undeclared agents of a foreign country. In the murky world of state espionage, both countries are playing games of deception. "

    At StratFor on December 3, 2010.

Geopolitical Journey, Part 3: Romania - 0 views

  • In school, many of us learned the poem Invictus. It concludes with the line, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” This is a line that a Victorian gentleman might bequeath to an American businessman. It is not a line that resonates in Romania.
  • empires collide where Romania is.
  • the great powers are sorting themselves out again and therefore Romania is becoming more important to others.
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  • The Carpathian Mountains define Romania, but in an odd way. Rather than serving as the border of the country, protecting it, the Carpathians are an arc that divides the country into three parts.
  • To the south of the mountains is the Wallachian Plain
  • To the northwest of the Carpathians is Transylvania, more rugged, hilly country.
  • In the east of the Carpathians is the Moldavian Plain.
  • Romania is one nation divided by its geography. None of the three parts is easy to defend.
  • About the only time before the late 19th century that Romania was united was when it was completely conquered.
  • Some of us experience geopolitics as an opportunity. Most of humanity experiences it as a catastrophe.
  • To understand Romania as an ally one must bear this in mind: When the Soviets began their great counterattack at Stalingrad, they launched it over Romanian (and Hungarian) troops. Romanians maneuvered themselves into the position of fighting and dying for the Germans, and then got their revenge on the Germans by being slaughtered by the Soviets.
  • The way the Romanians got the Soviets to tolerate this was by building a regime more rigid and oppressive than even that of the Soviet Union at the time.
  • Contemporary Romania cannot be understood without understanding Nicolae Ceausescu.
  • Stalin didn’t trust communists who stayed home and resisted. He preferred communists who had fled to Moscow in the 1930s and had proved themselves loyal to Stalin by their betrayal of others.
  • Ceausescu decided to pay off the national debt. His reason seemed to flow from his foreign policy — he didn’t want Romania to be trapped by any country because of its debt — and he repaid it by selling to other countries nearly everything that was produced in Romania.
  • One of her books, The Appointment, takes place in Romania under the communists.
  • When one reads this book, as I did in preparing for this trip, one understands the way in which the Securitate tore apart a citizen’s soul — and remembers that it was not a distant relic of the 1930s but was still in place and sustaining the Romanian regime in 1989.
  • Romania emerged from the previous 70 years of ongoing catastrophe by dreaming of simple things and having no illusions that these things were easy to come by or things Romanians could control.
  • Romanians yearned to become European simply because being Romanian was too dangerous.
  • For Romania, national sovereignty has always been experienced as the process of accommodating itself to more powerful nations and empires. So after 1991, Romania searched for the “someone else” to which it could subordinate itself. More to the point, Romania imbued these entities with extraordinary redemptive powers. Once in NATO and the European Union, all would be well.
  • Germany remains an exporting country exporting into Romania and leaving precious little room for Romania to develop its economy.
  • a good part of Romania’s exports to Germany are from German-owned firms operating in Romania.
  • During the period of relative prosperity in Europe from 1991 to 2008, the structural reality of the EU was hidden under a rising tide.
  • Romania is a developing country. Europe’s regulations are drawn with a focus on the highly developed countries. The laws on employment guarantees mean that Europeans don’t hire workers, they adopt them. That means that entrepreneurship is difficult. Being an entrepreneur, as I well know, means making mistakes and recovering from them fast. Given the guarantees that every worker has in Europe, an entrepreneur cannot quickly recover from his mistakes. In Romania, the agility needed for risk-taking is not readily available under EU rules drawn up for a mature economy.
  • There are regulations and there are relationships. The latter mitigate the former. In Germany this might be called corruption. In Romania it is survival.
  • First, there is no doubt that NATO and the European Union did not work in Romania’s favor at the moment. Second, there is no question of rethinking Romania’s commitment to either.
  • NATO and the European Union keep the anti-democratic demons of the Romanian soul at bay. Being part of Europe is not simply a matter of strategic or economic benefits. It represents a transitional point in Romanian history.
  • The Western Europeans are not about to be drawn into Eastern European paranoia fed by nostalgic American strategists wanting to relive the Cold War, as they think of it.
  • I raised two strategic alternatives with Romanian officials and the media.
  • One was the Intermarium — an alliance, perhaps in NATO, perhaps not — of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
  • Turkey is Romania’s fourth-largest export target, and one of the few major trading partners that imports more from Romania than it exports.
  • In this region, the fear of the past dominates and oppresses while the confident, American-style military planning and economic restructuring I suggested is alien and frightening.
  • I had thought that Romania’s problem was that it was part of Europe, a weak power surrounded by stronger ones. They seem to believe that their solution is to be part of Europe, a weak power surrounded by stronger ones.
    "This is the third installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman will write over the next few weeks as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he will share his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and conclude with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States. "

    By George Friedman at StratFor on November 16, 2010.

Why Russia And China Won't Fight - 0 views

    "Every so often there appear claims, not only in the Western press but the Russian one, that (rising but overpopulated) China is destined to fight an (ailing and creaking) Russia for possession of its resources in the Far East*. For reasons that should be obvious, this is almost completely implausible for the next few decades. But let's spell them out nonetheless."

    By Anatoly Karlin at Sublime Oblivion on October 17, 2010.
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