Steps to restore ties with Cuba are certain to meet resistance by some groups, particularly the Cuban community in South Florida that remain staunchly opposed to the communist leadership in Havana
Brian Murphy reports: The United States and Cuba will begin talks to normalize relations, including opening an embassy in Havana and putting to rest one most enduring Cold War standoffs, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
The landmark initiatives appeared to be set in motion by a surprise prisoner swap that freed American contractor Alan Gross after five years in custody in Cuba. In exchange, the United States would release three Cubans jailed for espionage, the Associated Press reported.
President Obama was expected to make a statement on Cuba at noon. At the same time, Cuban President Raul Castro was scheduled to address his nation about relations with the United States, Cuban state television reported.
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) December 17, 2014
Possible moves to close the rifts would mark a significant moment in Western Hemisphere politics.
The United State has maintain various sanctions against Cuba for more than five decades and enmity between Washington and Havana has played a role in affairs across the world — from snubs against the United States from Cuba’s allies in Latin America to the hero’s welcome given to then-President Fidel Castro during a visit to Tehran in 2001.
“President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”
– Senator Marco Rubio
At the moment, the United States and Cuba do not have full diplomatic relations, but allow interest sections to handle outreach.
The U.S. official said Gross departed Cuba on a U.S. government plane earlier Wednesday. He was released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the United States, the official said.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
Gross, 65, was detained in December 2009 while setting up illegal Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship. Read the rest of this entry »
A rare photo of Vladimir Putin from when he worked as an informant for Starsky and Hutch. pic.twitter.com/yf7UxfBMqf
— Andre Golo (@AndreGoLow) December 9, 2014
This post was endorsed and approved by our non-attorney spokesperson, Vladimir Putin
MOSCOW—James Marson and Andrey Ostroukh report: Striking a defiant tone, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the West of provoking a crisis in Ukraine and using sanctions to try to constrain Russia.
In his annual state of the union address, Mr. Putin defended Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, saying Russia would never give up the “sacred” peninsula. He accused the U.S. and Europe of cynically using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to pursue a long-held strategy aimed at weakening Russia.
“The policy of containment was not invented yesterday. It has been carried out against our country for many years,” he said. “Whenever someone thinks that Russia has become too strong or independent, these tools are quickly put into use.”
Mr. Putin’s one-hour speech in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall underscored his hard-line response to Western sanctions that, along with low oil prices, have pushed Russia’s economy toward recession. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Scariest Voice in the World? Russian Sports Fan Lets Loose Animal Roar to Support Her Team, Terrify HumanityPosted: November 25, 2014
On September 1, 2014 the US State Department published a report, in which it was stated that for first time since the collapse of the USSR, Russia reached parity with the US in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Washington admitted that Moscow regained the status that the Soviet Union had obtained by mid-70’s of the XX century and then lost.
According to the report from the State Department, Russia has 528 carriers of strategic nuclear weapons that carry 1,643 warheads. The United States has 794 vehicles and 1,652 nuclear warheads.
It just so happens that today, Russia’s strategic nuclear forces (SNF) are even more advanced in comparison with those of the US, as they ensure parity on warheads with a significantly smaller number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons. This gap between Russia and the United States may only grow in the future, given the fact that Russian defense officials promised to rearm Russia’s SNF with new generation missiles. Read the rest of this entry »
Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region
BRUSSELS—Naftali Bendavid reports: Russia has sent convoys of tanks, howitzers and other weaponry along with troops into eastern Ukraine in recent days, possibly aiming to consolidate separatist enclaves there in preparation for a long-term standoff, Western observers say.
The new incursions represent a sharp increase in Russia’s presence in the region, posing a significant new challenge to the peace plan signed in early September in Minsk, Belarus.
“This is a severe threat to the cease-fire,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Any attempt by separatist forces to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement.”
The flow “includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defense systems and troops,” he said.
‘We…are again at a point in which we can’t say for sure how this conflict will proceed.’
—German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
In addition, international monitors in the region said that the Russian-backed rebels have been gaining territory, and that the mission’s surveillance drones have been shot at and jammed.
‘While our aim is to try to work to consolidate the cease-fire, it is more on paper.’
—Lamberto Zannier, OSCE secretary-general
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the allegations of a military presence—troops or weaponry—in Ukraine, calling them, like previous ones, “regular concussions of the Brussels air.”
Since the cease-fire was reached between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists on Sept. 5—under Russian auspices—the two sides have regularly accused each other of violations. Hundreds of deaths of fighters and civilians have been recorded since then. Read the rest of this entry »
A ground-breaking new study on DNA recovered from a fossil of one of the earliest known Europeans – a man who lived 36,000 years ago in Kostenki, western Russia – has shown that the earliest European humans’ genetic ancestry survived the Last Glacial Maximum: the peak point of the last ice age.
The study also uncovers a more accurate timescale for when humans and Neanderthals interbred, and finds evidence for an early contact between the European hunter-gatherers and those in the Middle East – who would later develop agriculture and disperse into Europe about 8,000 years ago, transforming the European gene pool. Read the rest of this entry »
On this day in 1957, the Second Spacecraft Ever to Enter Earth Orbit, Sputnik 2, was Launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in KazakhstanPosted: November 4, 2014
On this day in 1957, the second spacecraft ever to enter Earth orbit, 2, was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. On board was Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow. Laika’s mission was to demonstrate that mammals could handle the physical stresses of a rocket launch.
Patrick de la Chevardière, CFO of Total SA (which is France’s largest energy company), has publicly announced that Total is looking to finance its share in the $27-billion Yamal LNG project using euros, yuan, Russian rubles, and any other currency but US dollars.
The effect of US sanctions was that Yamal LNG [in Russia’s far North] will be prevented from raising any dollar financings,” Patrick de la Chevardière stated in London at a news briefing.
Patrick de la Chevardière’s boss — the CEO of Total SA and presumably the man who made that decision — was Christophe de Margerie. De Margerie is now dead, along with three crew members aboard his private jet when it collided with a snowplow just after midnight at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. The plow’s driver was drunk, according to Russian investigators, and was seemingly unhurt.
[Check out Marin Katusa’s book “The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp” at Amazon]
You have more of a chance of being struck by lightning than hitting a plow or any other ground support vehicle.
So… is it a coincidence that the one CEO who prominently broke with the petrodollar is now dead?
In my new book The Colder War, there is a whole section on “suspicious deaths” that have occurred during the current conflict between Vladimir Putin and the West. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of this political stare down, and it doesn’t much matter whether you’re against Putin or against the West. Many have fallen on both sides.
De Margerie could now be one of them. We may never know for sure.
What we are sure of is that he was outspoken in his support for Putin’s agenda, and believed Russia was a good partner for Europe. He wasn’t afraid to take on the U.S. and its primary support mechanism, the petrodollar. Read the rest of this entry »
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 29, 2014
Weakness Invites Aggression. Putin’s Only Responding to Passive U.S. Leadership, Happily Accepting the Invitation
Update 5:50 P.M.: This story has been updated to include developing information about the Russian incursion off the coast of Alaska
Bill Gertz reports: Russian strategic nuclear bombers carried out air defense zone incursions near Alaska and across Northern Europe this week in the latest nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.
“They are having a very aggressive nuclear readiness exercise now as a show of force. Whereas the U.S. has been on a path of nuclear zero which they think is ridiculous.”
Six Russian aircraft, including two Bear H nuclear bombers, two MiG-31 fighter jets and two IL-78 refueling tankers were intercepted by F-22 fighters on Wednesday west and north of Alaska in air defense identification zones, said Navy Capt. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Two other Bears were intercepted by Canadian jets on Thursday.
Russia, under Putin, is engaged in a large-scale nuclear buildup that includes new missiles, submarines, and a new bomber.
A day later two more Bear bombers were intercepted by Canadian CF-18 jets in the western area of the Canadian air defense identification zone near the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, he said. Read the rest of this entry »
An interview with historian Victor Davis Hanson
Directed and Edited by: Joshua Hamilton
Interview and Writing by: Evan Carter
Camera Two: Anders Kiledal
Published on Sep 10, 2014
Adam Kredo reports: Propaganda and media accounts associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) are now being hosted by a Russian social media platform after the terror group was thrown off U.S. sites such as Twitter, according to a new intelligence report.
“The fastest-growing sectarian minority in Russia is also the one being radicalized. You’re going to get a sizable minority of the radicalized Muslims in Russia that will be at least intrigued by ISIL.”
At least 18 official ISIL accounts responsible for disseminating the group’s violent propaganda, including two videos of Americans being beheaded, are currently being hosted by the VK website, Russia’s largest social network, according to an intelligence brief released by the SITE Intelligence Group.
“Regional experts said that while the Russian officials may not be formally behind the movement of these ISIL accounts, it is likely some are turning a blind eye due to the terror group’s rabid anti-Americanism.”
VK, which resembles Facebook, has upwards of 250 million subscribers and is known for hosting the social media site of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who, along with his brother Tamerlan, executed the April 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon.
The relocation of ISIL’s official accounts to Russia highlights the challenge governments face in combatting the media-savvy terror group’s online presence. It also raises questions about the Russian government’s ability to stem the growing radicalization among its Muslim population, which has risen exponentially, experts say. Read the rest of this entry »
Foreign Ministry Summons Russian Ambassador
An official from the Internal Security Service (ISS), Estonia‘s national agency for counterintelligence and high-profile corruption investigations, was abducted at gunpoint at Luhamaa border checkpoint this morning where he was discharging service duties, and taken to Russia.
The incident occurred at about 9:00 on the Estonian side of the border and was preceded by jamming of communications and use of a smoke grenade, the agency said; the interference was said to originate from the Russia side.
The ISS said the official was in the process of interdiction of a cross-border crime.
The area is in Võru County, by Russian border post #121. The border is largely demarcated and lacks major fortifications; the area is thinly populated.
The whereabouts of the official are not known, Postimees daily’s online site said.
There was no immediate explanation on the late disclosure of the incident – more than six hours after it occurred – which comes during a period of more tense relations with Russia. Read the rest of this entry »
“Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”
Aug 29 (Reuters) – Alexei Anishchuk reports: President Vladimir Putin said on Friday Russia’s armed forces, backed by its nuclear arsenal, were ready to meet any aggression, declaring at a pro-Kremlin youth camp that foreign states should understand: “It’s best not to mess with us.”
“Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts. We don’t want that and don’t plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.”
Putin told the assembly, on the banks of a lake near Moscow, the Russian takeover of Crimea in March was essential to save a largely Russian-speaking population from Ukrainian government violence. He said continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists launched an uprising in April, was the result of a refusal by Kiev to negotiate.
“Russia’s partners…should understand it’s best not to mess with us.”
Ukraine, and Western governments, accuse Russia of sending troops and armour to back the separatists in a conflict that has already killed over 2,000 people. Russia denies the charge. Read the rest of this entry »
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) August 28, 2014
George Will writes: Russia’s ongoing dismemberment of Ukraine and the Islamic State’s erasing of Middle Eastern borders have distracted attention from the harassment of U.S. Navy aircraft by Chinese fighter jets over the South China Sea. Beijing calls this sea, and the Yellow and East China seas, the “near seas,” meaning China’s seas. The episodes involving aircraft are relevant to one of Admiral Jonathan Greenert’s multiplying preoccupations — CUES, meaning Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.
“Cascading dangers are compelling Americans to think afresh about something they prefer not to think about at all — foreign policy.”
This is designed to prevent incendiary accidents, a topic of special interest during this month’s centennial commemorations of the beginning of a war that, ignited by miscalculations, ruined the 20th century. Greenert, chief of naval operations, has carrier-based aircraft flying from the Persian Gulf to targets in Iraq. He is, however, always thinking about the far side of the largest ocean.
One hundred years ago, the principal challenge of world diplomacy, which failed spectacularly, was to peacefully integrate a rising, restless power — Germany — into the international system. Today’s comparable challenge is China. Greenert, who knows well his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, radiates a serene patience about China. Read the rest of this entry »