President Vladimir Putin ordered an urgent drill to test the combat readiness of armed forces across western Russia on Wednesday, news agencies reported, flexing Moscow’s military muscle amid tension with the West over Ukraine.
“In accordance with an order from the president of the Russian Federation, forces of the Western Military District were put on alert at 1400 (1000 GMT) today,” Interfax quoted Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying.
Putin has ordered several such surprise drills in various parts of Russia since he returned to the presidency in 2012, saying the military must be kept on its toes, but the geopolitical overtones could hardly have been clearer this time. Continue reading
BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she would talk to French President Francois Hollande about building up a European communication network to avoid emails and other data passing through the United States.
Merkel said in her weekly podcast that she disapproved of companies such as Google and Facebook basing their operations in countries with low levels of data protection while being active in countries such as Germany with high data protection. Continue reading
Germany’s strongman fires a shot across the bow of Vladimir Putin — and doesn’t hold back. What makes this article sting even more is that he teamed up with Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess master, who is also one of Putin’s most outspoken critics. In addition, another strongly made point when reading between the lines, is that he hinted that America has wimped out and no longer has the stomach to stand up for itself and face up to Putin’s political strong-arm tactics. Lastly, this article hints out that Russia has provoked Europe into filling the vacuum the United States has left behind in its retreat.
Although previously forced to step down due to a plagiarism scandal a few years ago, don’t count him out of politics of just yet. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is brilliantly skilled in politics and boasts a family background that could propel him as Germany’s next leader on bloodline alone, or even the EUs. Whether or not he’ll ascend to either of these, only time will tell. Here’s a quick quote to summarize this background:
“Beyond all this, Guttenberg and his wife have an intriguing and captivating family heritage. Karl-Theodor, as we’ve noted before, belongs to a wealthy aristocratic family whose bloodlines have been traced as far back as 1158. In 1700, Guttenberg’s forefathers were conferred the title Baron of the Holy Roman Empire. Guttenberg is also related to the Hapsburgs, another prominent royal dynasty that has a rich history with the Holy Roman Empire. Even today, KT owns an impressive castle that sits high on a hill overlooking the village of Guttenberg, Bavaria. The lineage of Stephanie Gräfin von Bismarck-Schönhausen is equally as impressive. Guttenberg’s wife is the great-great-granddaughter of Otto von Bismarck, the father of the modern German state and the first chancellor in the history of modern Germany.” – Source: The Trumpet
Since Vladimir Putin’s official return to power in 2012, the Russian President seems to have set his mind on teaching the rest of the world a few simple lessons. First, that he shall not be underestimated on the international stage; second, that Moscow will keep reasserting control over what it considers to be its legitimate sphere of influence for Russia; and finally, that he shall do whatever he pleases at home. To convey his message, Putin has supported a murderous dictator, lectured the U.S. about multilateralism, blackmailed his neighbors into accepting Moscow’s ironfisted embrace, inflamed anti-American and anti-gay sentiments, and brutally cracked down on dissidents.
From Syria and the Snowden saga to blatant human-rights violations and, most recently, pressuring Ukraine’s leadership into a sudden change of heart on its association with the E.U., Putin has managed to bedevil the West all year long. His latest clemency decision for some prominent critics of the regime, only two months before the Olympics in Sochi, lacks credibility; it is an arbitrary reflection of being at an autocrat’s mercy, not an act of mercy under the rule of law. Continue reading
As the Vilnius summit of EU’s Eastern Partnership draws nearer, at which several former Soviet states are expected to sign association agreements with the EU, Russia appears to have stepped up efforts to pull those same former Soviet states closer and into its own Customs Union, with mixed results.
On the surface, it appears to be a simple choice between which free trade agreement would offer those countries a better economic incentive – but where the EU can wield the carrot of foreign aid, Russia leans on the stick of threatening to withhold energy resources (and, unlike the EU, could not care less about asking for lasting reforms).
In the long run, Russian president Vladimir Putin sees the Customs Union as the building block of the Eurasian Economic Union – outlining its key institutions in an article he penned for Russia’s newspaper of record, Izvestia, in October 2011. Continue reading
Syria also holds the key as a future energy cooridor to European energy independence from Russia. This is also why you will likely not see Greece nor Cyprus getting the boot from the Eurozone, as they will have a useful future in supplying natural gas from the Mediterannean Sea to the future United States of Europe. Additionally, Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2006 had very little to do with serious threats against Russia itself. Georgia, too, was working on an energ pipeline from the Caspian Sea towards Europe. It was pre-planned, and even was mentioned by Putin himself (Additional sources: Here and here) — although you won’t hear the main reasons why. They even have planned to re-invade Georgia should a war with Iran kick off.
As the situation in Syria deteriorates with a threatened U.S. airstrike over President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons, the Damascus regime still controls one of the largest conventional hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
Syria possessed 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil as of January 2013, which makes it the largest proved reserve of crude oil in the eastern Mediterranean according to the Oil & Gas Journal estimate, besides Iraq. Continue reading
Europe’s grand plan for the gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea was derailed with the 2008 Soviet invasion of Georgia. That was the true intention behind the war and not a handful of unruly politicians or military provocations from a nation not much bigger than Israel, with half the capability. Putin himself said the war was pre-planned (Additional source here). Create the crisis and provide the solution — energy dependancy on Russia in this case. That was (and still is) the aim.
- Europe, U.S. support for Nabucco weakened
- Azeri consortium expected to pick winner in June
- Gas due to flow to European Union from 2019
VIENNA/BRUSSELS, May 28 (Reuters) – Europe’s grand plan for a gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea that would make its eastern states less reliant on Russia may have been fatally undermined by Russia’s even bigger project.
As Azerbaijan nears a decision on which pipeline to choose for its future exports, the Nabucco plan that was long the European Union favourite could lose out to the more modest Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) across Greece to southern Italy. Continue reading
A large-scale military drill was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week to intimidate a defiant Georgia for rejecting a Kremlin-proposed draft of a non-aggression pact that would recognize the runaway region of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Yet while the drill was going on in earnest, the Israelis attacked Iranian missiles inside Syria. Continue reading
Piece by piece, country by counry, Russia is reclaiming its breakaway regions and turning back into what was known as the USSR.
Dubbed a “Russian victory” by the media, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s election as president of Georgia on Oct. 1 promises to put the former Soviet satellite back into Moscow’s economic and even military orbit.
It’s highly unlikely Israel would forge stronger energy ties with the current US administration that has turned its back. The article does not take into context how badly ties are strained between the two over Iran and how it spills over into other areas of diplomacy.
At the same time, Israel is likely smart enough to see the trap Russia is laying. Luckily for Israel, it won’t end up facing Russia’s military as did the republic of Georgia — pre-planned for years beforehand, and all aimed at shutting down any chance of European energy independence. Therefore, with Europe’s energy needs in mind, Israel’s best choice at the moment for a strategic energy partnership, if any, would originate from this continent.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy said President Vladimir Putin was believed to be seeking to work with Israel in gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea. In a report by senior fellow Simon Henderson, the institute said Putin, who visited Israel in the spring of 2012, could be lobbying for Israel to select Russia’s Gazprom as a contractor.
“His motive was probably narrow self-interest — to ensure that Israeli
supplies have zero effect on Russia’s dominance of the European natural gas market,” the report, titled “Israel’s Natural Gas Challenges,” said.
“Therefore, Israel may need to be reminded that, diplomatically as well as technically, its best options are to work with the U.S. government and U.S. companies.”
Full article: Putin seen courting Israel to guarantee natural gas dominance in region (World Tribune)
Are we seeing the beginnings of a “sneakier” manufactured pretext for the next Russian invasion of Georgia? Only time will tell… Should the Middle East powder keg be lit, it could prove as a useful distraction for the Soviets to invade as the rest of the world would have a diverted attention.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are nearer to renewed conflict. In 2004, Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani Army lieutenant, murdered an Armenian officer during a NATO-sponsored course in Hungary. This week, returning to Baku a convicted killer, Safarov was nonetheless pardoned and afforded a hero’s welcome, provoking an inevitable storm of fury in Armenia and an outpouring of international concern.
Meanwhile, there has been the worst upsurge of violence on the Georgian-Russian border since 2008, this time between Georgian security forces and a band of North Caucasian fighters. The fighting took place on Georgia’s eastern border with the Russian republic of Dagestan. Three Georgian servicemen and eleven of the fighters were reported killed on August 28–29 in an operation that the government in Tbilisi said was carried out to secure the freedom of a group of villagers taken hostage.
The Georgian episode is dangerous for another reason, because of its obvious potential to be politicized and turned into a new pretext for Georgian-Russian confrontation.
Full article: Violence Flares on the Georgian-Russian Border (The National Interest)
After only a little bit of thought, most people wouldn’t buy the fact that the Soviets or Americans would have much to gain from each other in regards to simple parachute jumps and medical evacuations, marksmanship and communications. Even boot camp for entry-level military personnel undergo this. Both nations respectively have an advanced military. It can be plainly seen that this is nothing less than an intelligence gathering operation on the Soviet’s part.
Having said this, two points remained unanswered:
What information do the Russians really gain from this exercise and how will they use this against America in the future?
Joint U.S.-Russia military training raises concerns that the U.S. military will increase Moscow threat to friends and allies in Europe
The U.S.-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission stated in its June newsletter that “the training consisted of tasks common to both units: marksmanship, parachute jumps, communications, and medical evacuations.”
“The end result of this program is an improved understanding of how the other foreign military works, thus enhancing the operational effectiveness of allied forces,” the newsletter stated.
The U.S. government, while seeking closer ties with Moscow, is “insulting” Georgia by holding the joint exercises, since the Obama administration remains unwilling to sell the Georgians needed defense equipment and arms and has held very little training joint training with its military, the aide said.
Additionally, the Georgians are “under constant threat from a large-scale Russian military mobilization set for Georgia’s Oct. 1 parliamentary elections,” the aide added.
“The idea that some of these same Russian paratroopers could drop into NATO territory someday is not a fantasy,” the aide said. “What is a fantasy is thinking that they would never have to do it.”
The senior aide criticized the exercises as “more of the reset foolishness and weakness,” a reference to the Obama administration’s conciliatory policies toward Russia.
“Why don’t we do more in NATO? I guess Obama has reset that, too,” the aide said.
Ariel Cohen, a Russia affairs analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said now is not the time for such military exercises with Russia.
Russia has sent military intelligence agents disguised as special forces soldiers to spy on American troops, tactics, techniques, and procedures, he said.
“Today, Russia, together with Iran and Venezuela is among the troika of the most virulent anti-American countries, not counting Cuba and North Korea,” Cohen said.
“Russia is playing the godfather of Syria and is threatening to aim nuclear tipped missiles on our European allies because their military is still thinking we will deliver the nuclear first strike. This is why they oppose our European missile defense.”
The Russian exercises came weeks before several episodes of Russian military activities that also prompted concerns among Republicans in Congress.
In June, Russia’s military conducted a large-scale strategic bomber exercise in the arctic that included Russian Bear H bombers flying inside the U.S. air defense zone near Alaska. U.S. and Canadian jets were scrambled to intercept the jets.
The exercise, according to U.S. officials, appeared to violate the 2010 U.S.-Russia START arms treaty, which requires Russians to provide advance notice of such bomber exercises. None was given, either in advance or after the war games ended. A Russian military spokesman said the bomber exercises included practice targeting of “enemy” strategic defenses, presumably U.S. missile defense sites in Alaska.
Then, on July 4, another Russian Bear H bomber flew within 100 miles of the West Coast near California prompting a second scrambling of interceptor jets.
U.S. officials called that incursion the closest a Russian strategic bomber has flown to U.S. territory since the Soviet Union collapsed.
U.S. officials then disclosed that a Russian attack submarine sailed undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks before being spotted outside the Gulf.
Full article: Russian Troops Trained in U.S. (Washington Free Beacon)
“There was a plan; it’s no secret in my opinion. It’s within the framework of this plan that the Russian side acted. It was prepared by the General Staff at the end of 2006 or the beginning of 2007,” Putin told reporters.
“It was approved by me,” he added.
Full article: Putin bombshell: He planned invasion, war in Georgia 4 years ago (World Tribune)