Wednesday, September 21, 2016

NATO Rejects Russian Air-Safety Proposal for Planes in Baltic Region 

(Wall Street Journal)  BRUSSELS—The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has rejected a Russian air-safety proposal that would require all military planes in the Baltic region to fly with their transponders operational, according to allied officials.
In addition to the transponders, Russia has proposed an exchange of military experts on air safety. NATO diplomats have said convening such a meeting of military experts would violate the alliance’s decision to suspend practical cooperation.

Mr. Grushko said last week that NATO was “searching for any excuse to justify its decision to suspend practical cooperation with Russia.”

Friday, September 16, 2016

Another Russian Émigré Dies Mysteriously, but It's a Different Britain

New York Times - 12 hours ago

Why is it that these “mysterious” Russian deaths occur only in Britain?

And why is it that there is always such a secrecy?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Getting Fooled on Iraq, Libya, Now Russia

(Common Dreams)  After the British report exposing falsehoods to justify invading Iraq in 2003, a new U.K. inquiry found similar misconduct in the 2011 attack on Libya, but no lessons are learned for the West's new propaganda about Russia.

A British parliamentary inquiry into the Libyan fiasco has reported what should have been apparent from the start in 2011 – and was to some of us – that the West’s military intervention to “protect” civilians in Benghazi was a cover for what became another disastrous “regime change” operation.

The report from the U.K.’s Foreign Affairs Committee confirms that the U.S. and other Western governments exaggerated the human rights threat posed by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and then quickly morphed the “humanitarian” mission into a military invasion that overthrew and killed Gaddafi, leaving behind political and social chaos.
The U.K. report only underscores how deceptive and inept that intervention was. As described by the U.K. Guardian newspaper, then-Prime Minister “David Cameron’s intervention in Libya was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, according to a scathing report by the foreign affairs select committee.
Today, we are seeing an even more dangerous repetition of this pattern: demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin, destabilizing the Russian economy and pressing for “regime change” in Moscow. Amid the latest propaganda orgy against Putin, virtually no one in the mainstream is exercising any restraint or finding any cautionary lessons from the Iraqi and Libyan examples.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

EU to slash funds to Eastern Europe to step up migration budget

(Reuters)  European Union countries agreed on Monday to slash funds from next year's EU budget to poor regions of the bloc, mostly in the east, while increasing spending to manage migration flows and spur growth.

In an unprecedented wave of migration last year, 1.3 million people reached the southern shores of the EU, heading mainly to Germany from Greece and Italy.
To compensate for the higher expenses on migration and jobs, the EU agreed to cut other spending and slash funds destined for the least developed regions of the bloc, which will see in 2017 a fall in payments by nearly 24 percent year-on-year.

Eastern European countries are the main beneficiaries of development funds and fear that this decision could pave the way for bigger cuts in coming years, diplomats told Reuters.
Some see the budget decision as possible retribution for the opposition of Eastern European countries to EU plans to share out the hosting of asylum seekers across the 28 member states, which have largely missed targets.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Ukraine and Georgia: Two Rabbits, One Misha

( There is an old Ukrainian saying – if you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one. This adage can apply to politics, and it has particular relevancy these days for Mikheil Saakashvili, the erstwhile president of Georgia who managed to morph into the governor of the Ukrainian region of Odessa.
The problem faced by Saakashvili, or Misha, as he is widely called in Georgia and Ukraine, is that he is well known in both countries, but not exactly popular in either. In Ukraine, Misha has made a lot of noise, but has largely been unable to deliver results in Odessa. Moreover, within a few months of taking charge there, he appeared to set his eyes on a bigger prize – that of becoming prime minister of his adoptive country. This ambition, while impressive given that he is a newly minted Ukrainian citizen, has brought him into conflict with many of Ukraine’s more established political leaders. Some of this was due to Misha’s anti-corruption fervor, but his sometimes overly aggressive challenges and unfounded accusations were occasionally perceived as motivated by self-promotion, and thus rubbed some important people the wrong way.
Curiously, Saakashvili has kept pursuing his Ukrainian goal while simultaneously indicating his interest in returning to Georgia, with the apparent aim of helping the UNM (and, ultimately, himself) to regain power there.
Thus, were Misha to attempt to inject himself now into Georgia’s parliamentary race, it would quite possibly create an awkward situation for Western-oriented liberals there. A key to the UNM’s potential success in the October elections will be its ability to make voters forget about the abuses and excesses of the Saakashvili era, when the UNM controlled parliament. Saakashvili’s potential return to Georgia would only remind voters of those excesses. At the same time, a good electoral showing by a Misha-less UNM would make his oft-stated goal of making a triumphant return to Georgia, or even of becoming politically relevant again in the country, much more difficult.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ukraine’s Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace

(The National Interest)  By tradition, the Ukrainian political season begins the week after independence day—August 24. This year’s celebration was especially poignant, as it marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Ukraine’s declaration of independence.

What was the public’s mood on the eve of this silver anniversary? A survey conducted this August by SOCIS, one of Ukraine’s best known sociopolitical research and marketing companies, provides a rather striking answer.

The survey, which was conducted in Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city, suggests that over half of Odessans describe their city as “tense,” while nearly ten percent say it is “explosive.” But even more interesting is that Odessans view the situation in Ukraine overall as much worse, with over ninety percent describing it as either “tense” or “explosive”!
In sum, the perfect political storm is brewing, and it is hard to see how the current government can get through the fall without new parliamentary elections. But with or without elections, the situation has become so dire that it would not take much to upset the whole political apple cart.

Radical nationalists, along with armed volunteer activists returning from the frontlines, certainly seem to be doing their very best to tip it, recently firebombing Inter, the country’s most popular television channel. Both groups thrive on the current chaos, so their interests overlap in keeping this, and any future government, weak and off balance.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

G20 fight night: Reddit mocks Obama-Putin staredown 

(CTV)  Reddit users decided to inject a little fire into the icy relationship between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, with a series of "Photoshopped" images based on their stare-down at the G20 summit.

The "PsBattle" encouraged users to rework an image of Obama and Putin that captured the two leaders standing approximately a foot apart. The taller Obama is shown scowling and looking down at Putin, while the Russian leader glowers back.

User CatbirdOnAStick reworked the image to show Obama and Putin embracing on a beach at sunset.
Several people painted the two leaders into romantic situations, while others reworked the photo into different adversarial contexts. User jnoble50, for instance, pasted the faces of "Rocky IV" adversaries Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed over Putin and Obama, respectively.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Official G20 Group Photo

It's always fun to speculate, with the eyes of a Kremlinologist, on group photos taken at international events.  This years G20 is particularly interesting.  Xi Jinping in the center as expected for the host, flanked on one side by Merkel and on the other by Erdogan, with Putin next to him.  I don't think this arrangement is in any way random, which leads to the question of why? 

Looks to me like Erdogan is being internationally bulwarked by a new China-Russia axis that has emerged to counter the American imperialism of recent years.  Many in Turkey believe that the attempted coup against Erdogan had American backing, and that Russian intelligence warned him before he could be neutralized.  I don't know if the truth will ever be known,  but a John le Carré novel waits to be written.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Uzbekistan plunged into uncertainty by death of dictator Islam Karimov 

(Guardian)  Uzbekistan’s veteran dictator Islam Karimov has died, leaving central Asia’s most populous country in a state of turmoil and political uncertainty.
Karimov – a Soviet-era strongman who had ruled Uzbekistan since before the fall of the Berlin Wall – has no official successor. The most likely candidate to replace him appears to be Uzbekistan’s long-time prime minister, Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Mirziyoyev is believed to enjoy support from Uzbekistan’s powerful intelligence chief Rustam Inoyatov. A classified 2008 US diplomatic cable said Inoyatov had “sufficient compromising information on Mirziyoyev to ensure his own interests are protected”. Another contender is the finance minister and deputy PM, Rustam Azimov.
As well as the internal situation, regional analysts say it is worth watching the situation on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Many ethnic Uzbeks live in southern Kyrgyzstan, where ethnic violence in 2010 led to more than 400 deaths. The situation on the border remains tense, and in the past fortnight a standoff has developed over a disputed section of the border, with four Kyrgyz nationals detained and currently held in Uzbek jails. Kyrgyz officials fear any new Uzbek president might see the ethnic card as a good way to rally the nation.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Veterans of Arctic convoy get heroes’ welcome in Russia

(The Times)  Winston Churchill called it “the worst journey in the world”.

From 1941 to 1945, British and American ships risked freezing seas, Nazi U-boat attacks and aerial bombardment to deliver more than four million tonnes of supplies to the Soviet Union.

The first of these Arctic Convoys, carrying RAF Hurricane aircraft, sailed from Iceland and reached Arkhangelsk in northern Russia 75 years ago today having sailed round the top of German-occupied Norway.
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