Ukraine Gets Official NATO Status: Weighing Up the Pros and Cons

 

NATO has granted Ukraine the status of an aspirant country. Macedonia, Georgia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina have similar status. This means Kiev has been offered a real chance to make its dreams come true. The next step will be obtaining its Membership Action Plan (MAP), a set of criteria to meet before the country is allowed to join. It is tailored to each applicant country’s individual profile. This type of plan can be granted at any time; there is no need to wait for summits or ministry-level meetings. Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are aspirants with a MAP.

Last summer, Ukraine’s parliament (Rada) adopted a resolution recognizing full membership in NATO as a foreign policy goal. In 2008, NATO agreed that Ukraine and Georgia should become members at a future date. Continue reading

Putin is turning the Syrian coast into another Crimea

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For years, Russia has been helping Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad cling to a diminishing power structure in a shrinking territorial base without trying to impose an overall strategy.

Now, however, there are signs that Russia isn’t content to just support Assad. It wants to control Syria.

The Putin treatment is reserved for countries in Russia’s “near neighborhood” that try to break out of Moscow’s orbit and deprive it of strategic assets held for decades. Continue reading

NATO opens training centre in Georgia amid Russia tensions

NATO on Thursday opened a training centre in Georgia as the ex-Soviet country eyes closer partnership with the Western military alliance amid tensions with Russia.

Georgia has long sought full NATO membership and hopes to be invited to join a Membership Action Plan (MAP), a formal step towards membership, at a NATO summit in Warsaw next year.

But analysts doubt that NATO will grant the small South Caucasus country the membership plan in 2016 for fear of infuriating Russia amid tensions over Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sounded non-committal Thursday. Continue reading

Russia Is ‘Pulling a Crimea’ in Georgia

Georgia said the signing of a border deal between Russia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia on February 18 means Moscow was one step nearer to officially annexing the territory.

“It’s yet another action directed against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and an attempt to artificially redraw internationally recognized borders,” said the Georgian Foreign Ministry.

Continue reading

Russia Takes Key Step Toward Annexing a Slice of Georgia

Russian President Vladimir Putin further tightened his grip on Georgia’s breakaway province of Abkhazia on November 24: He signed a new treaty that places Abkhazian and Russian military forces under joint control.

On paper, “joint control” means Abkhazia has as much control over Russian forces as Moscow has over Abkhazia’s. In reality, however, Abkhazia’s influence over Russia will be approximately as robust as Mercury’s gravitational influence on the sun. Continue reading

Under the EU Flag

TBILISI/BERLIN (Own report) – Since their partial Ukrainian success in the power struggle over the ring of countries separating Russia’s borders from those of the EU, Berlin and Brussels have been stepping up their efforts to integrate Georgia into their hegemonic system. The EU is calling on Georgia – a country, geostrategists accord great importance not only for Russia’s encirclement, but for European access to Asia – to sign the EU Association Agreement in June, ahead of schedule. As in the case of Ukraine, Georgia is already integrated into the German-European military policy. The parliament in Tbilisi has recently voted to contribute Georgian troops to EU military operations in Africa. Georgia’s development following the 2003 “Rose Revolution” is very similar to what the Ukrainians find themselves confronted with since the February putsch in Kiev. Simultaneous with military-political integration into Western alliance structures, and the country’s accessibility for foreign investors, the population is sinking into impoverishment. Polls indicate that today only 27 percent of the Georgians have a “full-time job” that pays a living wage. Continue reading

Putin Is Basking in an ‘Astonishing Leadership Vacuum’

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

Russia piles pressure on former Soviet satellites to drop EU aspirations

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

Violence Flares on the Georgian-Russian Border

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)

EU welcomes Russia’s accession to WTO

For those that have thoroughly followed developments on Russia in great detail like a hawk, they realize that underlying factors making the Soviet Union communist have never changed, as evidenced by its engineered collapse. Since then, we have been given New Lies for Old in thinking they were a backwards nation striving for democracy. Through a Perestroika Deception during the last few decades they have appeared legitimate and now have been legitimized via duped and/or cooperative nations.The best example of what’s to come from Russia is to look towards China. They formally joined the WTO on Dec. 11, 2001 and look how far 11 years has brought them on the world stage politically and militarily due to their sharp rise in economic gains.

When they start tightening the screws on us as China has done via economic warfare (buying our debt and yet capable of pulling the plug at any moment) or worse, we can’t say we weren’t warned. The United States has been compromised.

Meet the superpower that never was truly gone. The bear is back.

Russia becomes last large economy to agree to global trade rules.

The European Commission has welcomed Russia’s admission today to the World Trade Organization as a “major step” that offers “plenty of business opportunities for both Russian and European companies”.

Karel De Gucht, the European commissioner for trade, said that Russia’s accession – which comes 19 years after it began talks with the global trade body – was “a major step for Russia’s further integration into the world economy”.

Russia, which has a population of 140 million and is a leading exporter of oil and gas, is the 156th country to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the last large economy to join the body, which sets trade rules and helps to resolve trade disputes. According to the WTO, Russia’s accession means that 97% of all world trade will now take place between its members.

De Gucht said that he hoped that membership would “help to accelerate the modernisation of the Russian economy”. Modernisation has become the key word in the EU’s relationship with Russia since 2010, when Russia’s accession process entered its final phase and when the EU and Russia launched a ‘partnership for modernisation’.

The WTO agreed to admit Russia on 16 December, weeks after Georgia became the last country to agree to Russia’s admission. Georgia withdraw its support for Russian membership in 2006 in response to a series of disputes, and reinforced its opposition in 2008, after Russian forces entered Georgia following Georgia’s attack on the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Tbilisi then insisted that it should monitor trade along the borders between Russia and South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, both of which Moscow recognised as independent states after the war in 2008. Under November’s agreement between Moscow and Tbilisi, a Swiss company will monitor trade between the two countries.

The Russian parliament ratified the WTO agreement on 11 July and it was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 21 July, setting in motion a 30-day preparation for accession.

The Russian government and economists believe that membership of the WTO will be good for Russian consumers and for a range of sectors of the economy, including agriculture, tourism, engineering, metallurgy and petrochemicals.  However, Russian sceptics about the deal fear that WTO rules could hurt Russian businesses operating in industries such as finance, car manufacturing and forestry.

The WTO’s rules will not fully apply in the US, where a Cold War-era restriction that links Russian trade access to rules on emigration – the Jackson-Vanik amendment of 1974 – remains in law. The restriction is, however, routinely waived in practice.

Full article:  EU welcomes Russia’s accession to WTO (European Voice)

Putin Confirms the Invasion of Georgia Was Preplanned

Further sealing the deal that this war was a long time in the making before the decision to invade. Georgia was essentially going to be Europe’s energy cooridor, with help of building infrastructure from the United States, that would decrease dependence from Russia — and also relieve pressure from the Soviet Union’s dominate political leverage which has been displayed by shutting off the energy resource transit pipelines (at will) that run from Ukraine to Europe, thus leaving European nations cold during the winters in previous years. The Soviet-Georgian war was never about a hostile regime in Georgia, a pocket-sized country with a population of roughly only 4.7 million.

Putin’s press service immediately confirmed the “Lost Day” as a genuine documentary. After a meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, in the Kremlin, Putin confirmed to journalists the accuracy of some of the “Lost Day” allegations. According to Putin, the plan to invade Georgia was prepared in advance and “the Russian side acted within the framework of that plan.” The General Staff of the Armed Forces prepared the plan of military action against Georgia “at the end of 2006, and I authorized it in 2007,” continued Putin. According to the plan, heavy weaponry and troops were prepared and mobilized for the coming invasion. As part of the Russian Defense Ministry plan, Ossetian separatist forces were trained and armed to act as auxiliary forces in the preplanned engagement with the Georgian military. According to Putin, “Our military specialists believed they [Ossetian separatist militias] could not provide assistance in a clash of regular armies, but they turned out to be much needed.” Putin confirmed he phoned from Beijing several times on August 7 and 8, 2008 to talk with Medvedev and Serdyukov (RIA Novosti, August 8).

This week, while commemorating the anniversary of the war in Tskhinvali, Medvedev rejected the narrative of the “Lost Day” film, announcing that the decision to use force against Georgia was taken “at the right time” and “the decision of a rocket attack was taken at 4 a.m., August 8 [2008].” In the passage about an authorized rocket attack, Medvedev is apparently referring to the order to attack Georgian cities and military bases with ballistic Tochka-M and Iskander missiles. According to Medvedev, “Those who speak different, do not know, or are lying – such decisions are taken by only one man, the Commander-in-Chief, and that was me.” Medvedev insisted the decision was not easy “since we recognized until August 26 [2008] the foreign state of Georgia [with sovereignty over Abkhazia and South Ossetia].” Medvedev added, “We had special relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also talked about the territorial integrity of Georgia, though we understood this was practically impossible” (Interfax, August 9).

The “Lost Day” film and the comments by Putin and Medvedev have revealed a great deal: that the invasion of Georgia in August 2008 was indeed a preplanned aggression and that so-called “Russian peacekeepers” in South Ossetia and Abkhazia were in fact the vanguard of the invading forces that were in blatant violation of Russia’s international obligations and were training and arming the separatist forces. The admission by Putin that Ossetian separatist militias acted as an integral part of the Russian military plan transfers legal responsibility for acts of ethnic cleansing of Georgian civilians and mass marauding inside and outside of South Ossetia to the Russian military and political leadership. Putin’s admission of the prewar integration of the Ossetian separatist militias into the Russian General Staff war plan puts into question the integrity of the independent European Union war report, written by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini that accused the Georgians of starting the war and attacking Russian “peacekeepers,” which, according to Tagliavini, warranted a Russian military response (www.ceiig.ch/pdf/IIFFMCG_Volume_I.pdf).

After agreeing not to seek reelection for a second term as President and becoming Prime Minister last May, Medvedev has been visibly sidelined on the Moscow political scene and has been struggling to assert himself. The “Lost Day,” which praises Putin as the great statesman and brands Medvedev a coward, has been interpreted as a move by Putin’s entourage in the Kremlin to undermine Medvedev and possibly initiate his ouster (Moskovsky Komsomolets, August 9).

In response to the “Lost Day” controversy, the Georgian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement calling the international community to “demand from Russia nonuse of force against Georgia” (www.newsgeorgia.ru, August 9). However, Putin does not seem to expect any censure from Brussels or Washington, where the Barack Obama administration is continuing to appease Moscow with its luckless “reset” policy. Most likely the Russian General Staff today has another “plan” of invading and occupying the rest of Georgia, while the decision to go and when, as last time, will be decided by the same one person – Putin.

Full article: Putin Confirms the Invasion of Georgia Was Preplanned (Jamestown Foundation)

Russia Is Massing Troops On Iran’s Northern Border And Waiting For A Western Attack

For those who enquire about what possible oucomes would stem from a war with Iran, war with Russia is a real possibility. Although this is not new news, it also gives insight into why (among many other reasons) Russia had manufactured justification and invaded Georgia in 2006: It provides strategic military access. As pointed out by the article, Georgia will likely have to be invaded again should war break out.

The Russian military anticipates that an attack will occur on Iran by the summer and has developed an action plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic, according to informed Russian sources.

Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, warned against an attack on Iran.

“Iran is our neighbor,” Rogozin said. “If Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.” Rogozin now is the deputy Russian prime minister and is regarded as anti-Western. He oversees Russia’s defense sector.

The implication of preparing to move Russian troops not only is to protect its own vital regional interests but possibly to assist Iran in the event of such an attack. Sources add that a Russian military buildup in the region could result in the Russian military potentially engaging Israeli forces, U.S. forces, or both.

Informed sources say that the Russians have warned of “unpredictable consequences” in the event Iran is attacked, with some Russians saying that the Russian military will take part in the possible war because it would threaten its vital interests in the region.

The influential Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper has quoted a Russian military source as saying that the situation forming around Syria and Iran “causes Russia to expedite the course of improvement of its military groups in the South Caucasus, the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.”

This latest information comes from a series of reports and leaks from official Russian spokesmen and government news agencies who say that an Israeli attack is all but certain by the summer.

Because of the impact on Russian vital interests in the region, sources say that Russian preparations for such an attack began two years ago when Russian Military Base 102 in Gyumri, Armenia, was modernized. It is said to occupy a major geopolitical position in the region.

The Russians believe that Georgia would cooperate with the United States in blocking any supplies from reaching Military Base 102, which now is supplied primarily by air. Right now, Georgia blocks the only land transportation route through which Russian military supplies could travel.

Fuel for the Russian base in Armenia comes from Iran. Russian officials believe this border crossing may be closed in the event of a war.

“Possibly, it will be necessary to use military means to breach the Georgian transport blockade and establish transport corridors leading into Armenia,” according to Yury Netkachev, former deputy commander of Russian forces in Transcaucasia. Geography of the region suggests that any such supply corridor would have to go through the middle of Georgia approaching Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi given the roads and topography of the country.

Full article: Russia Is Massing Troops On Iran’s Northern Border And Waiting For A Western Attack (Business Insider)

Iran’s nuclear, terror offensives meet slow US-Israeli responses

Shrugging off Western sanctions and Israeli recriminations, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad played a starring role in a widely televised spectacle by inserting his country’s first domestically-made fuel rod into the Tehran Research Reactor Wednesday, Feb. 15. The scene came after the announced cutoff of Iranian oil exports to six European countries – Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Portugal. Two hours later, the Iranian oil ministry challenged the announcement, spoiling the show by attesting to differences in high regime ranks.

By this show, Tehran thumbed its nose at Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s call on the world Wednesday to set red lines for Iran’s nuclear program and denounce its terrorist activity. “If Iran’s aggression is not halted, it will ultimately spread to other countries,” he told the Knesset.

Tehran paused only briefly in its multi-pronged offensive to deny Israeli charges of an Iranian hand behind the bombing attacks on its diplomats in New Delhi, Bangkok and the Georgian capital of Tbilisi this week, in which an Israeli woman was injured.

Full article: Iran’s nuclear, terror offensives meet slow US-Israeli responses (DEBKAfile)