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
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
America abandoned central Europe to try and make friends with Russia—and got nothing in return.
The Iskander-M is no Soviet relic. It is a thoroughly modern missile, designed to evade and confuse anti-missile systems. Probably battle-tested during Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Russia considers it “the most effective and deadly nonstrategic (and even perhaps strategic) ballistic missile in existence”—according to Stratfor emails revealed by Wikileaks last year. “Its high velocity allows the missile to penetrate antimissile defenses,” states the email. “It can fly low and make evasive maneuvers in order to prevent interception by surface air missiles.” The missiles are capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, but Russia has not admitted to developing one.
How did these missiles end up on Europe’s boarders? Continue reading
Hundreds of high-level political figures, CEOs and international experts from around the world explored the economic, political and strategic potential of the region at the third Caspian Forum in Istanbul. Experts and politicians discussed the latest about the Caspian region, particularly efforts to transport its energy resources to an eager European market. Experts described the Caspian as the centre of trade relations between East and West and as the new centre of energy for the world.
Participants at the December 5th forum also discussed the latest on transportation projects designed to establish a modern Silk Road trade route that would link Asia and Europe. Turkey and Azerbaijan have been at the centre of those efforts. Continue reading
If Ukraine is to still join the EU, expect it to after the cold winter subsides. This way, Russia can no longer blackmail the Ukranian leadership via energy supplies by shutting off the gas lines as it did a few years back — which also was a statement to Europe as it, too, was affected.
Every decent revolution produces an iconic scene. The 1989 Tiananmen protests had tank man; during Germany’s reunification it was a segment of the Berlin Wall swaying back and forth like a wiggly tooth before finally collapsing; in Baghdad in 2003, it was the slow-motion toppling of the giant statue of Saddam Hussein. On Sunday, the budding revolution in Ukraine got its iconic scene, when, amid protests of roughly 500,000 in Kiev’s Independence Square, angry marchers felled a Vladimir Lenin statue then slugged it to pieces with sledgehammers.
The protesters are upset with President Viktor Yanukovich, and specifically his November 29 decision to reject a free-trade deal with the EU. The decision was seen not only as a rejection of Europe, but an embrace of Russia. Many Ukrainians worry that Yanukovich, despite repeated denials, has struck a deal with Vladimir Putin to form a customs union with Russia.
Whatever the outcome, events in Ukraine highlight three important geopolitical realities, each of which is also prophetically significant. Continue reading
Sweden is to join the NATO Response Force (NRF) and participate in Steadfast Jazz — the western military alliance’s largest exercise in the last seven years, it was announced Monday.
According to a NATO statement, the Swedish move comes after the North Atlantic Council approved the Swedish contribution on October 14. Continue reading
Earlier this year, in an address delivered on the day devoted to the “defenders of the Fatherland,” the Russian president proclaimed: “Ensuring Russia has a reliable military force is the priority of our state policy. Unfortunately, the present world is far from being peaceful and safe. Long obsolete conflicts are being joined by new, but no less difficult, ones. Instability is growing in vast regions of the world.”
This is not empty talk. The rhetoric has been matched by a concurrent allocation of resources; Russia is now engaged in its largest military buildup since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago, with major increases in defense spending budgeted each year to 2020. Putin has pushed for this program even over the objections of some within the Kremlin who worried about costs and the possible negative impact on Russian prosperity; opposition to the expansion of military spending was one of the reasons the long-serving Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin left the cabinet two years ago.
The rest of the world is taking notice. Continue reading
Russia has applied more and more pressure on its former satellites to join its proposed Eurasian Union. Lithuania, which is keen to forge new ties with the EU, is also coming under increasing powerful pressure.
Russian customs-bullying of Lithuania is part of a bigger power struggle. The Kremlin is geared itself towards obstructing the European Union’s Eastern Partnership policy and forcing Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia to forsake any attempt to get close to Europe, instead seeking to push these countries back under Moscow’s rule via the so-called Eurasian (customs) Union. 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
Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov recently said that the Ministry of Defence has formed – and is ready to use – the Special Operations Forces; military units trained to perform combat missions both in Russia and abroad. He said the decision was based on the leading nations’ experience in forming, training and using special operations units, including the best-known of them all – the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM).
Such units have completely altered the very concept of special forces and their operating methods. The key difference is that command identifies only the scene of operations, whereas special operations units act autonomously and define their objectives independently in order to accomplish the ultimate mission. They are actively engaged with space and tactical reconnaissance units and involve Army, Air Force and Navy units. Continue reading
In November 2013 Vilnius will host the summit of Eastern Partnership, the EU program on closer cooperation with the post-Soviet countries which is operating since May 2009. The participants of the program are Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. In recent times Belarus has showed active interest to Eastern Partnership. Despite political contradictions, the leadership of the country expects invitation to Vilnius from the EU. Continue reading