Monday, July 28, 2014

Europe's Nightmare Coming True: America vs. Russia...Again

(The National Interest) Russia is learning to live in a new harsh environment of U.S.-led economic sanctions and political confrontation with the United States. More than five months after the change of regime in Kiev, which ushered in a new era in Moscow's foreign policy and its international relations, a rough outline of Russia's new security strategy is emerging. It is designed for a long haul and will probably impact the global scene.

The central assumption in that strategy is that Russia is responding to U.S. policies that are meant to box it in and hold it down—and back. The Kremlin absolutely could not ignore the developments in Ukraine, a country of utmost importance to Russia. The armed uprising in Kiev brought to power a coalition of ultranationalists and pro-Western politicians: the worst possible combination Moscow could think of. President Putin saw this as a challenge both to Russia's international position and to its internal order.
In broader terms, the competition is not so much for Ukraine as for Europe and its direction. Unlike at the start of the Cold War, with its pervasive and overriding fear of communism, the present situation in Ukraine and the wider U.S. conflict with Russia can be divisive. Western Europeans generally still see no threat from Russia; they also depend on Russian energy supplies and on the Russian market for their manufacturing exports.
Given the fundamental nature of Russia's conflict with the United States, Moscow is seeking to cement its connections with non-Western countries. The BRICS group, which brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is a natural platform for that. The recent BRICS summit in Brazil made a first step toward creating common financial institutions. Russia receives some moral support from its partners and is working to improve relations with others in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. However, to really strengthen its ties with the non-West, Russia will need to considerably expand economic relations with them: a tall order. India is a key priority here, followed by ASEAN.

Politically, Russia already posits itself as a go-to country for all those unhappy with U.S. global dominance. These countries are watching Russia's confrontation with the United States with keen interest, and are making conclusions for themselves. In particular, they look at what a country like Russia can get away with, and what cost it has to bear for that. Given the very diverse nature of the non-Western world, which Russia has now fully joined, it is not realistic for Moscow to expect too much solidarity from its partners there. Yet, the Russo-Chinese duo at the UN Security Council could become a rallying point for those craving an alternative to Western domination.
It is too early to speculate how the contest might end. The stakes are very high. Any serious concession by Putin will lead to him losing power in Russia, which will probably send the country into a major turmoil, and any serious concession by the United States—in terms of accommodating Russia—will mean a palpable reduction of U.S. global influence, with consequences to follow in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. Ironically, the challenge to the world's currently predominant power does not come from the present runner-up, but from a former contender, long thought to be virtually defunct. China could not have hoped for such a helping hand.

From Bad to Worse

MOSCOW/LONDON/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Hague's arbitration court ruled on Monday that Russia must pay a group of shareholders in oil giant Yukos $51.6 billion for expropriating its assets, a big hit for a country teetering on the brink of recession.
The arbitration panel in the Netherlands said it had awarded shareholders in the GML group just under half of their $114 billion claim, going some way to covering the money they lost when the Kremlin seized Yukos, once controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The $50 billion represents about 2.5 pct of Russia's total GDP worth, or 57 pct of Russia's Reserve Fund, which is earmarked to cover budget holes.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Russia Chides EU, U.S., Says Sanctions Endanger Security Cooperation

(RFE) The Russian Foreign Ministry says additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis put at risk cooperation over security issues. 

"The additional sanction list is direct evidence that the EU countries have set a course for fully phasing out cooperation with Russia over the issues of international and regional security. This includes the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, organized crime, and other new challenges and dangers," a statement said.

"We are sure the decisions will be greeted enthusiastically by international terrorists," the ministry also said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry later on July 26 accused Washington of waging a "relentless slander campaign" against Russia over Ukraine.

The U.S. administration is "more and more guided by blatant lies" in its foreign policy, the ministry said in a statement.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why Ukraine's government, which just collapsed, is such a mess

(Vox) "The fact is that today you failed to vote for the laws, and I have nothing (with which) to pay wages of policemen, doctors, teachers; nothing to buy a rifle with, nothing to fuel an armored personnel carrier with," Yatsenyuk said to the parliament in his resignation speech. "Today you failed to take a decision to fill the gas storages to allow us to live through the winter, to at last free ourselves from dependence on Russian gas."

Indeed, the body's politics have become so bitter that in recent years, fistfights have been a recurring phenomenon. The most recent incident occurred this week, during a debate over whether to send more troops to fight Russian separatists. An argument on the floor of the legislature came to blows:
Ukraine's polarization makes it particularly difficult for Ukrainian leaders to form a stable coalition. The western-leaning factions already had a relatively narrow majority in parliament, so any disagreements among them was likely to bring down the government, since they were loath to bring Russian-leaning parties into the government. Current polls suggest that fresh elections may increase the majority of the western-leaning parties, which could give their leaders more room to maneuver.
Some critics have described Poroshenko as an oligarch who used his ties to the government to further his own business interests. Indeed, the US government used to regard him with skepticism. As the Washington Post notes, in 2006 the US ambassador to Ukraine described him as a "disgraced oligarch." In a private diplomatic cable, a US official wrote that "Poroshenko was tainted by credible corruption allegations."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Poland Violated Rights in CIA Rendition Case, Court Says

(Bloomberg) Poland cooperated with the Central Intelligence Agency in its “rendition, secret detention and interrogation operations” of two terrorism suspects, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today.

The panel of judges in Strasbourg, France, ordered Poland to pay 230,000 euros ($310,000) in damages to the two men, who had lodged complaints against the country and argued that it violated prohibitions on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and undermined their right to a fair trial.

The decision risks tarnishing the reputation of Poland, which has championed human rights since the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989. It may also strain the country’s relations with the U.S. as Poland clamors for NATO to reinforce its commitment to regional security by deploying more troops to counter Russia amid the crisis in neighboring Ukraine.
Yatsenyuk Resigns as Ukraine’s Premier After Coalition Dissolves

(Bloomberg) Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned after two parties quit the ruling coalition and President Petro Poroshenko signaled his support for early elections.

Yatsenyuk told the parliament in Kiev today that he’s stepping down after losing the support of his allies and failing to pass legislation. Former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR and Svoboda, a nationalist group, said they’d leave the government and seek a snap parliamentary ballot, according to statements today on their websites.

“The fact is that the coalition has fallen apart, that laws haven’t been voted on, that soldiers can’t be paid, that there is no money to buy rifles, that there is no possibility to fill gas storages,” Yatsenyuk told lawmakers. “What options do we have now?”
Western powers largely alone in condemnation of Russia

(Globe and Mail)  In Kiev, Brussels, Washington and Ottawa, the response to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was angry and almost unanimous: The evidence was seen as clearly pointing at Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, which means Moscow itself was at least partly to blame.

But while Western powers like to refer to the “international community” when mustering a case they believe in, such solidarity doesn’t really exist. Among Russia’s allies – most crucially, its fellow members of the BRICS club of emerging powers (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) – the initial response to the tragedy was silence, followed by increasing skepticism of the evidence presented by the U.S. and Ukrainian governments.

That means Russia – even as Western governments move to punish the Kremlin for its continued support of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic by escalating economic sanctions – will still have an escape valve for its economy. As markets in the West close, Moscow can turn east and south, a process under way since March, when the first Western sanctions were implemented in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
Even the European Union – where most of the 298 dead on board Flight 17 were from – seems reticent to go as far as the United States and Canada in new sanctions against Russia. The 28-nation bloc said Tuesday it would impose an arms embargo on Russia and financial restrictions on Russian firms, but the details of those proposals were still to be worked out amid squabbling over who should bear the brunt of the pain while confronting the Kremlin.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ukraine gets $200 million a year for allowing overflights

(Washington Post)  Economically beleaguered Ukraine earns an estimated $200 million a year simply by allowing foreign aircraft to cross its airspace enroute to other destinations.

The Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944 allows nation​s to set "reasonable" charges for planes that transit their airspace at altitude. Some nations are public about their charges. For example, rates to fly over the United States will increase on Oct. 1 to $56.86 per 100 nautical miles, up $6.91 over current rates. Air carriers will be charged less -- $21.63 -- to fly over a vast expanse of ocean controlled by the United States.

Other nations are less public about their overflight rates, and, in some cases, they are negotiated with individual carriers. The estimate that Ukraine earns $200 million came from an international aviation organization that keeps track of overflight charges.

After Malaysia Air Flight 17 apparently was shot down over Ukraine, some critics questioned whether the Kiev government allowed dangerous airspace to remain open so that it could continue to collect overflight fees. Ukraine had declared its airspace below 32,000 feet off limits to commercial flights. MH17 was reported at 33,000 feet when the incident occurred.

Russian info about Ukrainian antiaircraft weapons in the area.

Dubbed in English

Airplanes are flying around Ukraine

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