Athletes in a wheel, Moscow, 1936. Photo by Ivan Shagin.
How North Korea made the Iran deal inevitable.
Michael Auslin writes: The deal between Iran, the United States, and the European Union on Tehran’s nuclear program, if it becomes operationalized as scheduled, will ensure that Iran will have nuclear weapons by 2025, if not well before. As Michael Mandelbaum has explained , the Obama Administration’s unwillingness to credibly threaten the use of force against Tehran resulted in the abandonment of decades of U.S. nuclear principles designed to prevent the spread of uranium enrichment, combined with the removal of effective sanctions that squeezed the regime.
“With U.S. diplomacy having midwifed one failed deal and generated a new flawed one, the future will almost certainly see the further spread of nuclear weapons to dangerous regimes.”
By any account, the Vienna negotiations were an unqualified success for Iran. The reason for that is simple: America’s failed bipartisan North Korean policy set a model for would-be proliferators on how to negotiate one’s way to a nuclear weapon. Now, the unwillingness or inability of Washington to learn the lessons of the past appears to ensure that regimes desiring to proliferate have a proven roadmap to follow.
“By any account, the Vienna negotiations were an unqualified success for Iran. The reason for that is simple: America’s failed bipartisan North Korean policy set a model for would-be proliferators on how to negotiate one’s way to a nuclear weapon.”
With U.S. diplomacy having midwifed one failed deal and generated a new flawed one, the future will almost certainly see the further spread of nuclear weapons to dangerous regimes.
At almost every step of the Iran negotiations, the Obama Administration repeated past mistakes made by it, the Bush, and the Clinton Administrations. To paraphrase Barbara Tuchman, we are witnessing a nuclear march of folly. In order to prevent future similar outcomes, it’s of paramount importance that we understand the North Korean case.
The first mistake made by successive U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, in dealing with North Korea was perhaps the fatal one. Each set of U.S. negotiators assumed, or convinced itself, that a deal could be reached that would ultimately persuade Pyongyang to abandon its goal of achieving a nuclear or ballistic missile capability. Read the rest of this entry »
Poland’s Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak: ‘After tens of years of peace, that peaceful period after the Cold War is now over’Posted: June 19, 2015
Zagan (Poland) (AFP) – NATO member Poland said Thursday that the post-Cold War period of peace is “now over”, as the European Union grapples with various crises including the Ukraine conflict and terrorism.
“Because there are more and more crises erupting around Europe… It’s not only the Ukrainian and Russian crisis but also ISIS and a number of different crises in northern Africa.”
Poland’s defence minister spoke alongside NATO head Jens Stoltenberg in western Poland while attending the first full exercise of the Western defence alliance’s new rapid reaction force — part of NATO’s biggest defence reinforcement since the Cold War.
“I think it’s a task for all of us to persuade the public that they should be ready to do more before it’s too late.”
— Defense Minister Tomasz Siemonia
“After tens of years of peace, that peaceful period after the Cold War is now over,” Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told reporters in Zagan.
“Because there are more and more crises erupting around Europe… It’s not only the Ukrainian and Russian crisis but also ISIS and a number of different crises in northern Africa,” he said, using an acronym to refer to the jihadist Islamic State group.
He added that Europe had to do more to defend itself, saying “I think it’s a task for all of us to persuade the public that they should be ready to do more before it’s too late.” Read the rest of this entry »
Konstantin Goldenzweig says he is ashamed of taking part in Kremlin ‘propaganda madness’
Konstantin Goldenzweig, the former Berlin correspondent of the NTV channel, lost his job after giving an interview to a German station in which he referred to the Russian president’s “well-known cynicism” and suggested it was advantageous to the Kremlin that the war in eastern Ukraine was prolonged.
The journalist now says he is ashamed at having take part in what he called Russia’s “general propaganda madness” since the beginning last year of the war in Ukraine, where combined Russian and rebel forces are fighting government troops.
State television in Russia dominates broadcast media and produces highly politicised and biased reports which often refer to Ukraine’s government as the “Kiev junta”. Some dispatches have been shown to be fabricated.
There have been some controversial departures from the state-run English-language channel RT in recent years but this is the first time since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis that a high-profile correspondent from a major terrestrial channel has criticised his employer so publicly.
In an interview with the independent news site, Meduza, Mr Goldenzweig said he was ousted from NTV shortly after giving the interview on June 8 to the Phoenix channel, in which he said that Mr Putin felt “insulted” for being excluded from the G7 meeting of leading states in Bavaria.
He said he had already decided to leave NTV at the end of July after becoming disillusioned with his work, but he was forced out early after the general director of the channel became enraged at his interview comments.
“I am truly ashamed of what I have been doing for the last year and a half,” he told Meduza.
Before autumn last year Mr Goldenzweig had managed to avoid politicising his reporting, producing frequent dispatches about German culture, but he then started to get frequent orders for crude propaganda from Moscow, he said.
Read the rest of this entry »
The tiny Polish town of Swietoszow did not officially exist during the Cold War; as home to a massive but secret Soviet tank force ready to strike at the West, it was removed from all public maps and records.
Last week Nato used the base for the first big deployment of a new special force to defend eastern Europe from an increasingly expansionist Russia.
American Black Hawk helicopters thundered in the skies as German tanks rolled from across the nearby border, along with troops and hardware from seven other nations that make up Nato’s Spearhead Force, which was set up last year in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Read the rest of this entry »
Boeing and Lockheed aren’t the enemy, but accelerating a competitive launch business is worth some risks
“Should Congress, however bad the precedent, climb down from sanctions enacted last December curtailing the Pentagon’s reliance on a Russian-made engine to put U.S. military satellites in orbit?”
Witness how frequently the words “to compete with SpaceX” appear in industry statements and press coverage. To compete with SpaceX, say multiple reports, the United Launch Alliance, the Pentagon’s traditional supplier, is developing a new Vulcan rocket powered by a reusable engine designed by Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.
Because of SpaceX, says Aviation Week magazine, Japan’s government has instructed Mitsubishi to cut in half the cost of the Japanese workhorse rocket, and China is planning a new family of kerosene-fueled Long March rockets. “Stimulated by SpaceX’s work on reusable rockets,” reports SpaceNews.com, Airbus is developing a reusable first stage for Europe’s venerable Ariane rocket.
“Yes, say the Pentagon, the national intelligence leadership and the White House, because avoiding disruption to crucial military launches is more important than any symbolic weakening of sanctions against Russia.”
All this comes amid one of those Washington battles ferocious in inverse relation to the certainties involved. Should Congress, however bad the precedent, climb down from sanctions enacted last December curtailing the Pentagon’s reliance on a Russian-made engine to put U.S. military satellites in orbit?
Yes, say the Pentagon, the national intelligence leadership and the White House, because avoiding disruption to crucial military launches is more important than any symbolic weakening of sanctions against Russia. Read the rest of this entry »
London (AFP) – Britain has been forced to move some of its spies after Russia and China accessed the top-secret raft of documents taken by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, British media reported.
“We know Russia and China have access to Snowden’s material and will be going through it for years to come, searching for clues to identify potential targets.”
— Intelligence source, to the Sunday Times
The BBC and the Sunday Times cited senior government and intelligence officials as saying agents had been pulled, with the newspaper saying the move came after Russia was able to decrypt more than one million files.
“It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information. It has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information,” a Downing Street source said, according to the newspaper.
“It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information. It has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information.”
— Downing Street source
Downing Street told AFP on Sunday that they “don’t comment on intelligence matters” while the Foreign Office said: “We can neither confirm or deny these reports”.
The BBC said on its website, meanwhile, that a government source said the two countries “have information” that spurred intelligence agents being moved, but said there was “no evidence” any spies were harmed.
Snowden fled to Russia after leaking the documents to the press in 2013 to expose the extent of US online surveillance programmes and to protect “privacy and basic liberties”.
The Sunday Times said other government sources claimed China had also accessed the documents, which reveal US and British intelligence techniques, leading to fears that their spies could be identified. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Obama Supporters Sign Petition to Launch Nuclear Strike on Russia so America will Stay World’s SuperpowerPosted: June 14, 2015
Media analyst Mark Dice asked beachgoers in San Diego, California to sign a petition supporting President Obama’s supposed plan to launch a preemptive nuclear attack against Russia to help keep the United States of America the world’s leading superpower. The results are disturbing. Сбор подписей в США за ядерный удар по РФ
Carol J. Williams reports: Only six years ago, President Vladimir Putin visited the Polish port of Gdansk, birthplace of the Solidarity movement that threw off Soviet domination, and reassured his Eastern European neighbors that Russia had only friendly intentions.
Putin spoke harshly that day of the notorious World War II-era pact that former Soviet leader Josef Stalin had signed with Adolf Hitler — an agreement that cleared the way for the Nazi occupation of Poland and Soviet domination of the Baltics — calling it a “collusion to solve one’s problems at others’ expense.”
But Putin’s view of history appears to have undergone a startling transformation. Last month, the Russian leader praised the 1939 nonaggression accord with Hitler as a clever maneuver that forestalled war with Germany. Stalin’s 29-year reign, generally seen by Russians in recent years as a dark and bloody chapter in the nation’s history, has lately been applauded by Putin and his supporters as the foundation on which the great Soviet superpower was built.
Across a resurgent Russia, Stalin lives again, at least in the minds and hearts of Russian nationalists who see Putin as heir to the former dictator’s model of iron-fisted rule. Recent tributes celebrate Stalin’s military command acumen and geopolitical prowess. His ruthless repression of enemies, real and imagined, has been brushed aside by today’s Kremlin leader as the cost to be paid for defeating the Nazis.
As Putin has sought to recover territory lost in the 1991 Soviet breakup, his Stalinesque claim to a right to a “sphere of influence” has allowed him to legitimize the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine and declare an obligation to defend Russians and Russian speakers beyond his nation’s borders.
On May 9, the 70th anniversary of the Allied war victory was marked and Stalin’s image was put on display with glorifying war films, T-shirts, billboards and posters. Framed portraits of the mustachioed generalissimo were carried by marchers in Red Square‘s Victory Day parade and in the million-strong civic procession that followed to honor all who fell in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War. Read the rest of this entry »
Yet within hours of Mr Nemtsov’s death, Ms Savchuk and her colleagues were going online to pour bile on the former deputy prime minister and claim he was killed by his own friends rather than by government hitmen, as many suspect.
“I was so upset that I almost gave myself away,” she said. “But I was 007. I fulfilled my task.”
The “007” role that Ms Savchuk refers to is her own extroardinary one-woman spying mission, which appears to shed intriguing light on the propaganda machine that props up the rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.
Video by Dmitri Beliakov, edited by Juliet Turner
Ms Savchuk says that for two months, she worked as one of scores of “internet operators” in a secretive “troll factory” called Internet Research, an anonymous four-storey building on a back street in St Petersburg, Russia’s former tsarist capital and Mr Putin’s hometown.
Ms Savchuk’s job was to spend 12 hours a day praising the Kremlin and lambasting its perceived enemies on social networks, blogs and the comment sections of online media.
The trolls’ task, reminiscent of the black arts of Soviet disinformation, was to attack any opponent of the Russian authorities, be it dissenting politicians, pro-European Ukrainians or even Barack Obama – who was branded a “monkey” because of his black skin.
“We had to say Putin was a fine fellow and a great figure, that Russia’s opponents were bad and Obama was an idiot,” she recalled.
All along, however, Ms Savchuk was copying documents and making clandestine video footage about the “factory”, gathering evidence in the manner of a Cold War spy. Or, as she prefers to see it, a Victorian sleuth. “I was really inspired by detective novels and Sherlock Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch,” she told the Sunday Telegraph in an interview last week.
Ms Savchuk says she was sacked in March after leaking her information about Internet Research to a local newspaper. Now she is out in the open and leading a campaign against the firm, which is allegedly run by a Kremlin-connected businessman.
“I want to get it closed down,” she explained. “These people are using propaganda to destroy objectivity and make people doubt the motives of any civil protest. Worst of all, they’re doing it by pretending to be us, the citizens of Russia.
In an attempt to expose the practices of Internet Research, Ms Savchuk is suing the company for breaches of labour law because she never received a contract and was paid in cash.
The story of her time as a troll is a rare and piercing insight into Russia’s attempts to skew the truth and flood the internet with political innuendo.
She worked from January 2 to March 11 at the building of Internet Research at 55 Savushkina Street in St Petersburg, which insiders say is still operating as a “troll factory”.
Working two days-on, two-days off, its army of bloggers – who are thought to number several hundred – spew out thousands of posts a week.
At her interview, Mrs Savchuk says, she pretended to be “a housewife with no real views” when she was asked if she sympathised with Russia’s opposition. She “cleaned” her pages on Facebook and Vkontakte (a Russian equivalent) in advance – the interviewers asked to see them – and replaced posts about her campaigns as an eco-activist with recipes.
“The first thing we would do each day would be to turn on the proxy server to hide our IP addresses,” said Ms Savchuk. Then the operators would start to receive “technical assignments” – written descriptions of themes they should raise in their blogs and comments, with key words to be included.
The bloggers are kept under tight control – their email is subject to checks and their workplace monitored by CCTV. Failure to reach quotas invokes a fine, as does a poorly scripted post. Ms Savchuk said she and others were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Read the rest of this entry »
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) May 26, 2015
Under the law, passed by the Russian parliament this week, authorities can ban foreign NGOs and go after their employees, who risk up to six years in prison or being barred from the country
Russian President Vladimir Putin officially enacted a controversial law banning “undesirable” non-governmental organisations, the Kremlin said Saturday, in a move condemned by human rights groups and the United States.
“We are concerned this new power will further restrict the work of civil society in Russia and is a further example of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on independent voices and intentional steps to isolate the Russian people from the world.”
— State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf
The law allows authorities to bar foreign civil society groups seen as threatening Russia’s “defence capabilities” or “consitutional foundations” and go after local activists working with them, the Kremlin statement said.
Supporters presented the law as a “preventative measure”, necessary after the wave of Western sanctions put in place over the Ukraine conflict.
Under the law, passed by the Russian parliament this week, authorities can ban foreign NGOs and go after their employees, who risk up to six years in prison or being barred from the country.
It also allows them to block the bank accounts of the organisations until the NGOs “account for their actions” to the Russian authorities.
Lawmakers cited the need to stop “destructive organisations” working in Russia, which could threaten the “value of the Russian state” and stir up “colour revolutions”, the name given to pro-Western movements seen in some former Soviet republics over the last several years.
Critics have said that the vague wording of the law—which gives Russia’s general prosecutor the right to impose the “undesirable” tag without going to court—could allow officials to target foreign businesses working in Russia. Read the rest of this entry »
Benny Avni writes: Supposedly “isolated” Russia’s bromance with China flourishes. No wonder: Both countries appreciate power politics and scoff at America’s display of global weakness.
That was then. On Tuesday, after months of snubbing the Kremlin, Secretary of State John Kerry came hat in hand to Sochi, Russia, where he tried to schmooze Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.
The Kremlin signaled its disdain for Washington by declining to confirm Kerry’s meeting with Putin until the last minute. Afterward, Kerry sheepishly said the sides weren’t seeking a “major breakthrough.”
While this haphazard attempt at diplomacy took place, the Russian and Chinese navies exercised together for the first time in the eastern Mediterranean — a symbol of a fast-gelling alliance between two growing military powers.
Beijing just invested $6 billion in a Russian rail project. Dozens of trade and other bilateral agreements address mutual interests in Central Asia.
And to address Beijing’s never-satiated hunger for energy sources and Moscow’s need for cash, Russia just signed a pact to build a lucrative natural-gas pipeline to China. Annual trade between the two countries is estimated at $100 billion.
Meanwhile, as cyber threats to America grow, including, prominently, from Chinese and Russian hackers, the two countries just signed a cyber non-aggression pact, raising fears about the future of Internet freedom.
And in the world of global diplomacy (Obama’s supposedly strong suit), Beijing and Moscow unite on United Nations Security Council votes that could harm them or their allies, blocking and vetoing American and other Western resolution proposals on Syria, Ukraine and, of course, anything to do with Beijing land grabs in the East and South China Seas.
Then there’s Kerry. Read the rest of this entry »
On display: an upgraded military relationship that could complicate U.S. strategy
BEIJING — Jeremy Page reports: When a Chinese honor guard joins a military parade in Russia’s capital this weekend, watched by China’s President Xi Jinping, it will mark more than just a symbolic recognition of the two countries’ contributions to the Allied victory in 1945.
China’s participation also reflects an upgrade of its military ties with Russia, including joint naval exercises and a revival of arms purchases, that could complicate U.S.-led efforts to counter both nations’ expanding military activities, analysts and diplomats say.
“They’ve basically come to a consensus that despite their differences over some national interests, they really face the same common enemy.”
The 102 Chinese troops who will join the Victory Day parade in Moscow on Saturday were seen during a rehearsal this week marching through streets near Red Square singing the Russian wartime ballad “Katyusha”, according to video footage posted online.
The only other foreign countries with troops in the parade are India, Mongolia, Serbia and six former Soviet states.
“I think they’re both sending a message that their relationship is stronger than outsiders generally expect and if others put pressure on either in their own arenas, the two will stand together.”
— Gilbert Rozman,an expert on China-Russia relations at Princeton University
The Chinese ships—two missile destroyers and a supply vessel — will then take part in joint exercises with the Russian navy in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time, according to Chinese and Russian authorities.
Both sides say the drills aren’t directed at other countries, but the timing, after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and the location, on NATO’s southern flank, have compounded Western concerns about an emerging Moscow-Beijing axis.
“The main significance is that the two countries’ navies are learning how to jointly project power into the other regions of the world,” said Vasily Kashin, an expert on China’s military at Moscow’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
The Chinese ships’ visit to Novorossiysk could be seen as a response to NATO ships holding exercises in the Black Sea in March, he said, the message being: “Russia has allies too.”
On Wednesday, Russia’s government unveiled a draft cybersecurity deal with China under which both countries agree not to conduct cyberattacks against each other and to counteract technology that might disrupt their internal politics.
The rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing has been driven in large part by Western sanctions which have forced Russia to seek new markets for its oil and gas and new sources of investment.
Mr. Xi also appears to share a personal affinity with Russian President Vladimir Putin who is seen by many in China as a strong, patriotic leader.
The relationship, though well short of a formal alliance, is now developing a more substantial military dimension as Russia ramps up air and naval patrols around Europe and China seeks to challenge U.S. military dominance in Asia. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON — Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.
The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.
But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.
White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information. Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one operating on a highly secure classified network and another connected to the outside world for unclassified communications.
But officials have conceded that the unclassified system routinely contains much information that is considered highly sensitive: schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation, and, inevitably, some debate about policy.
Officials did not disclose the number of Mr. Obama’s emails that were harvested by hackers, nor the sensitivity of their content. The president’s email account itself does not appear to have been hacked. Aides say that most of Mr. Obama’s classified briefings — such as the morning Presidential Daily Brief — are delivered orally or on paper (sometimes supplemented by an iPad system connected to classified networks) and that they are usually confined to the Oval Office or the Situation Room.
Still, the fact that Mr. Obama’s communications were among those hit by the hackers — who are presumed to be linked to the Russian government, if not working for it — has been one of the most closely held findings of the inquiry. Senior White House officials have known for months about the depth of the intrusion.
“This has been one of the most sophisticated actors we’ve seen,” said one senior American official briefed on the investigation.
Others confirmed that the White House intrusion was viewed as so serious that officials met on a nearly daily basis for several weeks after it was discovered. “It’s the Russian angle to this that’s particularly worrisome,” another senior official said. Read the rest of this entry »
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