Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ukraine's economy is starting to disintegrate: Polish Deputy PM

(Reuters) - Ukraine's economy is starting to disintegrate, creating a risk of hundreds of thousands of immigrants flowing into Poland, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski said.

Piechocinski, leader of the centre-right junior coalition partner PSL, told Reuters he thought Ukrainian elites had made disappointing progress in building a Western-style democracy.

He defended comments by PSL presidential candidate Adam Jarubas who called for a softer stance toward Russia over Ukraine, signaling frictions in a government coalition that ranks as one of Kiev's most outspoken supporters in its battle with pro-Russian insurgents.
“In a black scenario of developments in Ukraine, one cannot exclude an inflow of a few hundred thousand emigrants to Poland. Looking at what has happened during the last year, one has to take into account all scenarios and be ready.”

The strongly pro-Kiev line is firmly backed by the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party and the largest opposition party and seems unlikely to change. But the PSL comments could win support among voters concerned about the possible security implications for Poland of the Ukraine crisis.

Ukrainian Model Duritskaya Speaks Out on Nemtsov Murder

Anna Duritskaya, who was walking with opposition leader Boris Nemtsov when he was shot dead near the Kremlin on Friday evening, told media Monday that investigators are forcing her to stay in Moscow and not allowing her to return to her native Ukraine to see her distraught mother.
Duritskaya, 23, a Ukrainian model who is a key witness in Nemtsov's murder, said that she did not see the killer. "When I turned around I only saw a light-colored car, I didn't see its license plate or make," she told the Dozhd television station in an interview.

Nemtsov was shot four times in the back and head by an unidentified assailant while walking across the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge with Duritskaya after the two had been to Bosco Cafe on neighboring Red Square. Duritskaya was unharmed in the incident.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How America Screws up the World without Its People Knowing What Is Happening

(Dissident Voice - John Chuckman)  Brian Williams, American television network anchor caught telling his audience a fantasy version of his experience on a foreign assignment, has unintentionally provided us with a near perfect allegory and tale of caution about American journalism and the role it plays in politics and foreign affairs.
American major news broadcasts and newspapers all have become hybrids of infotainment, leak-planting, suggestion-planting, disinformation, and other manipulative operations. Many of them, such as the New York Times or NBC, maintain a seemingly unassailable appearance of authority and majesty, but it is entirely a show much like a grand march being played as a Louis XIV sauntered into a room, at least when it comes to any important issue in foreign affairs and even most controversial matters in domestic affairs, as with the Kennedy assassination or a thousand other examples from election fraud to corporate bribery. Massive corporate media consolidation (six massive corporations supply virtually all the news Americans receive), the dropping of most foreign correspondent and investigative journalism efforts owing to high costs, the constant and ready compliance of the few remaining owners of news media to adhere to the government line no matter how far-fetched, plus America’s now non-stop interference into the affairs of other people, have made American television and newspapers into a kind of Bryan Williams Media Wonderland where no reported item of consequence can be accepted at face value.
For Ukraine, any numbers and facts Americans receive are shaped to fit the construct of an aggrandizing Russia, led by a new Czar intent on upsetting the balance of Europe, opposing a now free and democratic government in Kiev. You can almost imagine the smiles and snickers of the good old boys gathered in planning meetings at Langley a few years ago when they realized how their scheme could both give them Ukraine and discredit Putin, the only reasonable actor in the whole dirty business. No images of Ukrainian militias and thugs displaying swastikas and other neo-Nazi symbols, no discussion of repressive measures taken by the new crowd at Kiev against Russian-speakers, no discussion of a country starting a war on its own people who stood up for their rights, and no discussion of an incompetent Ukrainian military shooting down a plane-load of civilians. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Oil and the Russian Economy

I don't think that economic sanctions against Russia are having any net effect, zero.  Russia's imports are decreasing and internal manufacturing growing as a result, maybe even a net positive.  Oil prices on the other hand are significant, very damaging to the state budget.  However, as this chart shows, Russia already went through the same impact to its economy during the Great Recession of 2008 and survived just fine.  For some reason I haven't seen any articles that have looked at this (recent) historical precedent.  Instead they tend to only show the last 5 years and not the 10 years in which oil price fluctuation had the greatest previous impact on Russia.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March in memory of Boris Nemtsov ends in Moscow

MOSCOW, March 1. /TASS/. A march of mourning in memory of Russian politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead in central Moscow overnight to Saturday, has ended in central Moscow.
According to the press service of the Moscow police department, about 21,000 people took part in the Sunday march in Moscow. On Saturday, the Moscow authorities issued a permit for a march of up to 50,000.
Participants walked from the Kitai-Gorod metro station to the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, the scene of the murder. People were carrying portraits of Nemtsov, Russian flags with mourning bands. The people were solemnly silent. No slogans were heard. Portraits had signs reading "He fought for free Russia," "He fought for our future," as well as the core slogan of the march - "Heroes do not die, and those bullets are aimed at each of us."

Mikhail Kasyanov, a co-chairman of the RPR-Parnas party, delieverd a short speck at the scene of Nemtsov’s murder. "Boris is with us… We shall not forgive, the murderers will be punished," he said. He suggested the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge be renamed Nemtsovsky Bridge.

Daily: Serbia plans "several military exercises" with Russia

This would take place despite the negative comments from the EU and the United States, the paper reported, and noted that last year's drills held in Serbia with the participation of Russia's Airborne Troops (VDV) also received criticism from the same quarters.
The article cites information obtained from "sources close to the Ministry of Defense and the Serbian Army," who said Serbia's foreign policy has not changed "despite the Ukrainian crisis and EU's demands to harmonize it with the European policy." 

That is the reason military exercises with Russia are planned for this year as well, the daily quoted its sources. 

However, "there is still no precise information about their number, date, or location, as programs are still being determined," writes Danas, and adds it was unofficially told by the Ministry of Defense and the Serbian Army that "a final agreement on the military exercises will be reached in the coming days." 

The newspaper noted that Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic on Thursday met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, "a day after" Kerry spoke about Serbia being "in the line of fire" when it comes to relations between Washington and Moscow, and added that the conversation took place face to face.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Europe Isn't Really Worried About Putin

(Bloomberg)  For all the alarmist rhetoric about Russian barbarians at the gate, NATO countries are reluctant to put their money where their mouth is. Only the countries closest to Russia's borders are increasing their military spending this year, while other, bigger ones are making cuts. Regardless of what their leaders say about Vladimir Putin, they don't seem to believe he's a real threat to the West.

In a paper released today by the European Leadership Network think tank, Denitsa Raynova and Ian Kearns analyzed this year's spending plans for 14 NATO countries. The U.K., Germany, Canada, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria will cut military expenditure, and France will keep it at last year's level. Only six countries -- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Romania and the Netherlands -- will increase their defense spending. Four of them are Russia's close neighbors, and the fifth, the Netherlands, suffered greatly this year from the Ukraine conflict when an airliner filled with Dutch citizens was shot down over eastern Ukraine.
There is no question, however, that Russia's immediate neighbors see Putin's aggression as a clear and present danger. Lithuania, which only spent 0.78 percent of its GDP on defense last year, is bumping up that expenditure by a third and reinstating conscription, probably on the advice of Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who said in an interview in July 2014 that small countries like Estonia's Baltic neighbors were wrong to switch to professional armies. The professional soldiers "are very good," Ilves said, "but how many are they? Two thousand? Everything could end after one battle already. And what will happen to the rest of Latvia?"

Friday, February 27, 2015

Russia's military exercises are 
WAY bigger than NATO's

(Business Insider)  If military strength and ability was determined solely by the number of soldiers participating in military exercises, Russia would be able to steamroll through NATO without much of a second thought.

Since 2013, Russia has launched a number of military exercises with troop numbers regularly surpassing the 100,000 personnel mark. In comparison, the largest NATO member exercise during the same time frame took part in Norway in 2014 and had 16,000 personnel.
Ultimately, though, military strength is better measured through financial resources, training, and experience. In this regard, Russia is still behind the NATO alliance.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Putin Learned From Reagan

An article by Stephen M. Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University. He compares the Putin's reaction to the development in Ukraine to the Reagan's reaction to the development in Nicaragua in 1980-ths - with Putin having more reasons to be worried.

Russian warplanes' flights carried out in accordance with international practice — Kremlin

NEW YORK, February 26. /TASS/.

Russian military planes carry out flights over neutral waters in accordance with international practice, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN in a telephone interview broadcast on Wednesday.

"Every time they start to make buzz about Russian jets planes or military planes navigating in international corridors, every time they make that buzz, willingly or unwillingly they forget to mention NATO planes, British planes, and American planes doing the same in the same corridor," Peskov noted.
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